A guide to Agile retrospective: Drop Add Keep Improve (DAKI)
Why Agile retrospectives are key to lead to better software development? I decided to use what Ken Schwaber says in “Agile retrospectives: making good teams great” because it is an excellent example.
He says that, whether you call it a retrospective, a post-mortem or a post-project review. Your work can be improved by taking a step back and start asking two questions. “What worked well we don’t want to forget? What should be done differently?” The natural rhythm of the iterative delivery of software in Agile projects provides chances for the team to improve continuously.
When choosing a retrospective framework, it is essential to adapt it to your team’s context and tailor it to make it fun, engaging, and productive. Here’s a guide to conduct the DAKI retrospective.
What is the DAKI retrospective?
The DAKI (or Drop Add Keep Improve) retrospective activity is suitable to use after several sprints working with the same team. As your team members are experimenting with different processes, it helps cull out non-value things, keep what is working, and improve by brainstorming on new ways to work.
Setting up the meeting
Plan one hour to conduct this activity. Draw a 2x2 matrix with four equal squares.
Top left: Drop
This is the opportunity for your team to voice what they would like to stop or remove. This could be anything that affects their velocity and/or the quality of their work. For example, team members could ask to do fewer meetings and to focus on their primary tasks.
Top right: Add
The Add section is the perfect place to be innovative. If your team members want to try new technology, different processes or different ways to collaborate to achieve their goals, this is the right spot to discuss it!
Bottom left: Keep
It’s time to make a team assessment. This part of the retrospective is the always-remember list. Keeping in mind all the good ways to do things is great for your team's velocity and pride!
Bottom right: Improve
Agile development focuses on incremental changes to deliver continuous value to your clients. Why couldn’t we use this methodology to refine what your team does? What can we adjust to make it even better?
How to do this meeting?
Like any other retrospective activity, you want to collect comments, analyze them, then proceed to narrow them down to find an action plan.
1. Write comments
Give 5 minutes per section for your team members to individually write down their comments. If you feel that you should provide more details, don’t hesitate to write an explanatory sentence on each part of the matrix. At this step, you want to avoid group thinking as much as possible.
2. Presentation and aggregation
Invite team members to present their comments to the group. This exercise should stay quick and straightforward. Remind them to provide context when they are talking about their notes.
Narrow down the comments to a few requiring attention. Aggregate notes of the same topic to make it easier to discuss and vote. Allow five votes per team member. The voting phase is essential to find actionable topics; everyone involved in the retrospective should participate and vote.
4. Create an action plan
This phase should be fun and constructive. Discuss the selected notes with your team to evaluate how these ideas could be an improvement to your next sprint. When creating action items, make sure to give them a clear title/goal and assign one or more owners. Ask your team if they would like to have these items added to their Jira’s board, or if they prefer to keep them in a separate environment. Having a board and dedicated owners help your team members being accountable for their team’s health.
💡 Ideas to get the best out of your meetings
Check up before starting your meeting
It is always good to start a retrospective meeting by checking up previous action items.
When doing the Collect phase, invite your team members to do it silently and individually. This will increase the value of their comments and maybe helps you uncover things nobody has ever noticed.
Monitor your team’s action items
Like any retrospective activity, it is important to keep track of action items progression and assess what worked and what didn’t. You will be able to uncover patterns and the real challenges your team encounters.
Improve this process
It is an excellent practice to ask for feedback at the end of your retrospective meetings to improve this activity continuously. You can ask your team members what they liked, disliked, or would recommend doing for this ceremony.
I hope this article helped you perform the DAKI retrospective. You can find this retrospective template on Neatro. Give it a try, and feel free to reach out to me if you want to share some feedback about the app!