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Davide de Paolis
Davide de Paolis

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2019 Agile Retrospective: How did it go with your New Year s resolutions?

In about 1 week 2020 will start and almost everyone will be busy thinking about their New Year´s Resolutions.

Every December / January I set up a new Trello board to list all the different goals that I want to achieve over the year - divided by category (wealth/health/family/sport/work/study) so that I can week by week pick some card - and hopefully move it to the Done/Achieved column ( Kanban style).

This year though rather than just staring at the old board looking disappointed at the card still in the ToDo list, I´d like to reflect on the entire year applying Agile Methodologies and specifically the Agile Retrospective Meeting.

Kaizen - Change for Good

Agile Methodologies stresses the importance of continuous improvement (Kaizen) and a Retrospective is a meeting that's held at the end of an iteration in Agile software development (ASD ). During the retrospective, the team reflects on what happened in the iteration and identifies actions for improvement going forward.

Plan Do Check Act

The point of a Retrospective Meeting is to embrace a positive spirit of continuous improvement and share whatever you think will help the team improve

This is achieved by discussing

  • What went well?
  • What needs improvement?
  • What actions can be taken to improve those things and move the process forward

It is worth repeating that the goal is to embrace the Kaizen spirit and to do that the key things to keep in mind are:

  • Be honest
  • Don't make it personal, don't take it personally.
  • Dont´beat yourself up.
  • Stay away from blame

And this is why every meeting normally starts with Norman Kerth's Retrospective Prime Directive:

Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities the resources available, and the situation at hand."

Of course, I won´t be doing a Retrospective Meeting with my family members - even though I always suggest it to my wife and kids... :-) - also because most of my goals are personal and professional ones, but it is worth looking at my Trello board with that approach in mind.

So, imagining that 2019 was my sprint and my JIRA tickets were the following goals:

  • Engage in public speaking ( at least 2 presentations/workshops)
  • Run a technical blog ( one post a week )
  • Run a half marathon
  • Get AWS Solutions Architect certification
  • Get a raise ( changing or without changing job) and Save at least X Euros
  • Read at least 12 books
  • Train 3-4 times a week (boulder/running/slacklining/BikramYoga)
  • many more personal/private ones like Improving/Increasing quality time with kids and wife or Eating healthy (mostly unprocessed food).

What went well? / What needs improvement?

Public speaking

I joined a Toastmasters Club and did 3 speeches there. At work, I managed to do 7 presentations/workshops/show-and-tell. Audiences were never big, but preparing and delivering was always fun.
Just last week I submitted 2 speeches at the CfP for Hamburg Serverless Days next March (in January I will know if I have to be depressed or panicking)

Technical Blogging

In started on end of January and even though I skipped a couple of weeks of blogging ( due to vacation or sickness) then I always caught up to keep the average of 1 post per week.
Too many articles were not technical enough, rather discussions or thoughts about our professions.


I got a nice raise - without the need for changing my job
but I wasn´t able to save that much money ( on the other hand - this year I had the opportunity to travel a lot - so I don´t regret anything)

HalfMarathon and Sports/Training

I did it - and with good timing - but since I did not train properly ( increased too much in too short time) I kinda screwed my knees...
Had a couple of other small injuries (that took me away from the gym for way too long)


Reading has always been my passion, since thanx God I don´t commute that much anymore, and I started reading more online articles than books, the number of books I buy and read is decreasing every year.

But I want to stay away from screens and reading is anyway the other side of the medal of writing - quoting Stephen King:

If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write.

therefore I try to keep an average of a book a month.
This year I barely reached the goal, but on my defense, I read my first full - and pretty long - book entirely in German.

AWS Certification

On this one I failed very bad, subscribed to a couple of Udemy courses but never really committed to it. Must say that I studied and learned a lot about different AWS solutions while at work, building cool stuff for 3 different projects. First Goal of next year!

What actions can be taken to improve those things and move the process forward?

Better Planning / Organization of Goals

As in Agile, sprints are supposed to be short iteration 1-2 weeks, I should probably make better use of the template board and divide the year into quarters each with some goals, not just write a bunch of cards and trying to do them all at once, obsessing about the fact that if I go climbing I will not have time to write a blog post, and if I am practicing for Toastmaster I can't commit fully to the AWS Certification course...
Some things should be constant - like healthy food and regular training ( I don´t want to eat junk food for 3 months just to pass an exam - but I should definitely do fewer things at a time.

Less Perfectionism

Too many times I spent too much time writing a blog post, or a speech - finding myself adding more and more time to polish, refine, resize until I was happy with it.

Too many times I let go the opportunity of public speaking ( be it submitting for a local Meetup or presenting at a Show-and-Tell at work ) because I was convinced what I did or learned at work was not so interesting, or not so difficult after all, or that I was not so much expert of the topic yet...

Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection

So, in the end, I am very happy of 2019 went for me, and I am really looking forward to 2020, hoping I can consolidate all the goals I achieved and add some more with small iterative steps.

And did your year go?

Photo by Jake Hills on Unsplash

Top comments (3)

murrayvarey profile image

This is a great way to review the year. How was Toastmasters?

Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection

Yeah, I struggle to make this one stick. Could do with it on some kind of motivational poster!

dvddpl profile image
Davide de Paolis

Toastmasters is awesome. You meet great people all with same growth mindset and positive attitude. You have fun and have fun. Joining that club was the best I could do in 2019.

murrayvarey profile image

That's awesome to hear. Thanks!