Retrospection or “Atmachintan (self-reflection)”?

Scrum 06 Mar 2023
Sachin S. Dhaygude

For the last few weeks, I observed that quite some portion of the vegetables cooked for lunch remained till evening and we used to have the same stuff for dinner. Being a Scrum Master at heart, I spotted this as a “dysfunction”! I thus decided to collect some “empirical data” around it to see some trends; so that we can “inspect and adapt”.

By the way, there are 9 of us staying together, which includes 2 senior citizens, 2 kids, 1 teenager and 4 mid-aged folk. So, there are many variables. 9 people can have 9 different tastes, preferences, appetite, likes-dislikes, etc.

While I do understand that estimating anything is hard, and especially so with so many variables, I still collected the following data. Based on the following data, more than 50% of the time I had ended up eating the same vegetable twice in the same day. 

  1. 1. 1 to 5 Feb - Cabbage, Cauliflower, Beans, Sprouts usaal
  2. 2. 8 to 12 Feb - Raajma, bhindi, Cabbage, Salad
  3. 3. 15 Feb onward - Beans, Spinach, Paneer

So, the spill-over seemed consistent and predictable (like many Scrum teams).

After getting “empirical data” and clear trends, I took it to the concerned “stakeholder” (You know what I mean?). I suggested that we should retrospect and see if we can change something. I got the following responses:

  1. 1. Everyone should just take a little bit more, during lunch itself, in each serving and it will finish!
  2. 2. If it remains, in the evening, again each one can take a little bit of it, no big deal!

Well, this is a very typical pattern I have seen in any “retrospective”. People, invariably, find changes that others should make [that’s so easy, right?]. There is no change identified which I can do (e.g. make less quantity of vegetables or make it so tasty that it will finish)! [That’s so difficult, right?]

A sprint cycle is actually intended to be a “Plan-Do-Check-Adjust” cycle, also known as a “learning cycle”. The first two parts of it (planning and doing) represent “Action”. While the last 2 parts of it (Check and Adjust) represent “Reflection”. Action without Reflection leads to zero “learning”! Well, it seems to be common sense. But, how many times did we look at a sprint as “a learning cycle”? Can “real learning” happen, if I don’t see any opportunity to change, to become better? Imagine if the entire system is happy, only finding “changes that others should make”? How can anything improve in such a system?

Shouldn’t the change start with me? Shouldn’t every engineer identify “what can I change to become a better person, a better engineer than today?” And then the entire system can become a “continuous improving stream”! So, it’s more about “atmachintan” (self-reflection), than just “retrospection”!

Shall we all do some “atmachintan” about our retrospective itself? Hopefully, one day, our perspective of “sprint cycles” will change….and we all will appreciate that continuous improvement is always better than delayed perfection!