Retrospectives with the Portfolio Board

Retrospectives with the portfolio board.

The agile world has an important building block to enhance cooperation when it comes to working with Scrum: retrospectives. According to the Scrum Guide, the Sprint Retrospective is an opportunity for the Scrum team to analyze themselves and create a plan for improvements to be implemented during the next Sprint.

At Meisterplan, when we introduced Lean PPM, we simply integrated this element into the process. We don’t have a sprint team made up of management, but the board members who meet regularly every few weeks, as well as the organizers of the portfolio can basically be seen as a team. This team, like all others, benefits from taking time to reflect on the past in order to make improvements.

After each of the first three board meetings following the implementation phase of Lean PPM, I brought everyone together so that they could express their thoughts directly to the board in the style of a Retrospective.

First of all, we compiled a list of “Events” such as “we had an expert visit to speak on a topic”. Scrum retrospectives typically look at the period of the last Sprint. In our case, we adjusted it to focus on the board meeting. We used this to determine needed areas of improvement.

Next, we collected opinions on what we want to keep doing. This gave us the chance to see exactly what is working and what a board member attaches particular value to.  It is rare to get such specifically formulated feedback from such a group.

Examples of “What we want to keep doing”:

  • Continue using the three-portfolio partitioning method

  • Continue using Scenario Comparison in board meetings

  • Complete the fields “Why?” and “Definition of done” for all topics

  • Continue communication and transparency of results after the board meeting

Then, we compiled a list of necessary improvements. In addition to knowing what is working, structured feedback helps pinpoint what needs to be worked on. Again, it is very helpful when a group of board members give feedback to each other, the portfolio organizers, and the PPM process itself.

Examples of “What we want to improve”:

  • Making strategic portfolio decisions more transparent

  • Prevent micro-management of minor issues

  • Portfolio “jumps” in the board meeting

  • Clear portfolio ownership for all topics

Meisterplan Agile Product Manager, Stefan Schneider

Since it is impossible to improve everything by the next board meeting, we prioritized the points that needed improvement into a short list of the most important. The group also agreed on what the next tasks should be. We focused on the items that have the highest chance of success. It was exciting that the board members themselves were also assigned tasks.

Acceptance for the planning mode increased through participation. Without acceptance, it would be difficult to create plans that actually work.

At the end of the three planned retrospectives I asked the question: “Do we want to continue to have retrospectives after the board meetings?” There was an immediate yes! This was probably the best answer as to whether or not Retros with Board members help to make a better PPM process for a company.

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