Everything is an experiment: on decisions and retrospectives

DecisionsIn decision-making, we try as much as we can to impact future results based on our previous experience. But every decision is also based on the assumption that its positive consequences will be greater than any possible negative outcome. Therefore, we should treat decisions as experiments. We should always preserve the option of reconsidering our decisions in the future, when we will be able to measure their real impact.

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When making decisions, we should also prepare the tools and mechanisms that will allow us to collect feedback and evaluate the obtained results. In the methodology of Agile software development there are several such tools, including Burndown charts and Velocity charts. These charts help us measure the progress in the delivery of new features, providing immediate feedback that indicates if the execution is according to our plans.

Another fundamental concept in Agile methodologies are the Retrospectives. They are a planned opportunity for teams to analyze their own performance and discuss if there is any need to change the current processes. Thus we never assume that we are already following the most effective process and nothing needs to be changed. An integral part of the Agile mindset is the focus on continuous improvement, always looking for opportunities to deliver better results.

For example, a software development team may decide to adopt Test-Driven Development (TDD). The expected results may include improved quality and better design. But this decision should be considered an experiment. After some period of time, the team should verify if indeed TDD is having the intended consequences, and if there is no drastic negative impact such as a big increase on the time required to develop and deploy new features.

By treating decisions as experiments, and by having the tools to measure their results, we can be sure we are making progress in the right direction.

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