Want to save time on your next project? Improve working relationships? Understand what contributed to your success–or what didn't? You'll need a retrospective to do these things, and if you want a great retrospective, you'll buy a copy of Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen.
A retrospective provides feedback to the entire project team and helps them see how to proceed based on their immediate past experience. Esther and Diana have written a readable actionable book that explains how to plan, conduct and use the results of retrospectives. They include a full explanation of the 5-step process for a retrospective:
Set the Stage
Decide What to do
Close the Retrospective
They included 30 activities with instructions on how to use those activities (and which stage(s) in which to use them). Even if you've never facilitated a retrospective before, you could use this book to learn how.
I particularly like the quick reference matrix and the moebius-strip-like picture of how the retrospective fits into an iterative lifecycle.
Everything in this book is applicable to any project. Even if you're using a stage-gate lifecycle, you could benefit from having a retrospective at any management review milestone. The ideas in this book are applicable.
Esther and Diana explain how to timebox a retrospective so the team uses the time most effectively. Too many of my clients use questionnaires to perform “post-mortems.” Ugh. To those of you who are suffering through those questionnaires: put down your pens, and conduct a time-boxed retrospective. You'll learn a lot more and have fun doing it.
You don't have to be a part of an agile team to use the ideas in this book. If you're willing to understand what's happening (or what has happened) on your project, and you'd like to improve things as you proceed, you can use this book. And what project manager or team wouldn't want that?