The Gnar Company
The Gnar Company

Retrospectives @ The Gnar

TL;DR

Taking time each week to acknowledge successes and learn from mistakes not only helps the business grow, but is a fun team bonding event.

Background

Retrospective meetings are a standard part of Agile software development. They allow time for reflecting on what went well and what can be improved so that changes can be made as necessary in future sprints (chunks of planned work, usually 1-2 weeks in duration).

retro-whiteboard

The Problem

At The Gnar Company many of us are working on different projects for different clients. As such, we consider our “product” to be the sum of the work we do for our clients. In a similar way to traditional product companies we want to consistently refine company processes and operations.

The Solution

Our company-wide weekly retros are a bit different than those in the Agile software development world. Instead of focusing on projects specifically we focus on the company as a whole, since to us, our product is the company.

We start retro off by catering lunch and hanging out as we get organized. Following lunch is a quick overview of the sales pipeline, upcoming events/announcements, and a review of any action items from the previous week’s retro. From there we move into the heart of the retro meeting where people post whatever is on their mind in one of 4 whiteboard columns using sticky notes.

The first column is for calling out things that went particularly well over the last week. Maybe we got new shirts that the team likes, a client product launched, or someone presented an interesting topic at a team brownbag meeting.

The next column allows us to call out things that could have been better. An example might be a third-party library a team is fighting to implement.

Next up is the “shoutouts” column where people can call out others who have been particularly helpful. Did someone help me debug a particularly challenging issue or review the bulk of my pull requests? Great opportunity for a shoutout to say thank you to a colleague!

Lastly, we have a column for “ideas”. This is a fun column that has a wide spectrum of possible topics. We’ve had ideas ranging from adding 401K as a company benefit (which we did) to new t-shirt ideas (which we made), to building a cryptocurrency miner (which we built).

As we go through each post-it note, whoever wrote it has a chance to add additional context. If there is opportunity for it, we create action items to be performed before the next week’s retro.

retro

The Outcome

Not only has Retro helped the company continually improve processes, it has been a fun weekly bonding event for the team where we all get together and share our experiences to make The Gnar Company a better place to work and deliver high value for our clients.