Yes, of course I’m joking, the SWOT analysis isn’t an innovative tool, but have you ever use it for analysing how an iteration has gone?
Hi there, holidays are over and a new working year is ready to start!
During my vacations I read a lot about agile retrospectives and it was an opportunity to compare the techniques and the tools mentioned in those books, with the ones I use in my everyday working life.
What actually I did not found is one of my preferred tool: the SWOT analysis.
That tecnique is so versatile that can be adapted easily. It was born to be used mostly for conducting marketing activities to devise new products.
On the other side, that of the traditional project management approach, it was applied to the projects in order to conduct the risk identification phase.
Actually, I use that technique at least in two other occasions.
Firstly, when I want to stimulate and accompanying the growth process mine and of my colleagues and team members. I help them to identify, related to their job and daily working activities, what are their strenghts and weaknesses in order to understand which opportunities could be developed and to what weaknesses they are exposed to.
Secondly, it is a fantastic tool to conduct a retrospective meeting. How? Let’s go!
As the major part of you already know, an agile retroscpective meeting is a meeting that usually lasts 4 hours, which is held at the end of a sprint (iteration), just immediately after the team has shown what it was developed (demo meeting).
The scope of this meeting is to reflect about what was good and what was bad about the last iteration. Considering the necessity to help people to actively participate and freely express opinions, ideas and any doubts, it’s better (read as mandatory) if that meeting is opened only to the the team, the scrum master, and the product owner (but only as a spectator).
Once the environment is ok and the meeting is open, distribute to the participants the SWOT matrix template and ask to each to address their thoughts on the iteration just concluded.
The focus is on the tools and techniques used, the approaches and behaviours kept by the people involved, the things happened during the iteration.
It is mandatory to absolutely avoid any direct reference to collegues, rather indicate the behaviour that should be rewarded or penalized, never cite an individual.
Remember that it is not a matter of finding the guilty, it’s a matter of improve performance and why not, to work better with sustainable paces.
The first quadrant contains the strenghts: which attitudes, behaviours, approaches were good. What, in the end, shall be reiterated to actually continuing to bring real worth to the project.
The second quadrant is a container of weaknesses (please do not confuse it as a garbage bin, there’s much to learn from our weaknesses): think of what has gone in the wrong way and analyze what is missing and where the problems were.
Think about the bad effect that was caused by the problem and try to conduct an analysis in order to climb to the root reason.
Now it’s time to concentrate on what could be exploited and what should be avoided: respectively the opportunities and threats quadrants.
The opportunities quadrant should comprise a list of “good things/objectives” the team/project/sprint could reach in case of investing in improving the strengths or bridging the weaknesses above reported. If possible connect each opportunities or threats to the relative strenght or weakness.
On the contrary the threats quadrant is reserved to the consequences that could arise in case no improvement is put in place.
When every team member has finished to compile the “SWOT”, it’s time for each of them to write on a white-board, flip-charts or sticky notes both the strengths (good things) and weaknesses (bad things) giving insights regarding the opportunities and threats that they can bring aboard.
When finished, the agile retrospective leader (role that should be assigned in rotation to every team member), tries to identify which items are duplicate, eliminate them and the remaining are grouped, clustering them under a category, a word, a statement that clearly explains them.
Now you have a well arranged situation of what has been the iteration just finished, in terms of good and bad things: solicit the team to devise and propose activities that aim to solve problems and enhance the performance according to what above reported.
And, finally, it’s time to vote: do you know DotVoting?
Simply assign a predefined number of votes to each team member that he can distribute on the activities.
Everyone can assign one vote for each desired item or assign all the dots/votes to one item, if they feel that is an important one.
Arrange the result as a bar graph (do you remember pareto and the 80/20 rule?) and pick the most voted activities, those must be executed during the course of the next sprint.
- Do not put into the pipeline too many activities for the next iteration; most of the time it is better to process one at a time.
- Try to focus on the strenghts instead of weaknesses.
Try to maximize the benefits coming from what the people can do better: their talents and qualities.
It is more difficult to work on weaknesses.
Obviously, if the weakness has an heavy and bad impact on the team/project/sprint, do not hesitate to deal with it.
- Everyone during the meeting should actively participate: your responsibility as a Scrum Master is to go along with the retrospective leader and stimulate who is not actively participating or try to contain who tends to speak to much or has a coercitive approach.
- Keep in mind these three words: APDC, CPI, Kaizen. They teach us to continue to improve the process, even a small adjustment can lead to great improvements.