Agile Retrospectives for Relationships

We often hear that people are upset in their personal or professional relationships for different reasons. TL;DR: We should retrospect our relationships to sustain them over a long period. The Agile Retrospective concept secretly tells us how to do that.

Bharati Koot, Software Craftsperson at Nelkinda Software Craft Pvt Ltd
First Published:
by NNelkinda Software Craft Private Limited
Last Modified:
by Bharati Koot
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1 Let's First Read The Agile Manifesto

The Agile Manifesto:

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation

  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

  4. Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

Agile Manifesto from the [Agile Manifesto]

In this Manifesto if we see, statement number 1 and statement number 3 are actually putting an emphasis on relationships. Relationships of any type start with individuals, grow with their interactions and shape with possible collaboration. And Agile in a way focuses on relationships. Because relationships are made up of, by and for people. And people are a key part of any process or system to become successful.

2 The 12th Agile Principle

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.
12th Agile Principle from the [Agile Principles]

This Agile Principle that talks about reflecting and fine-tuning is not only about process improvement. It is also about reflecting on relationships, communications, and interactions. It is therefore about learning how to make others and ourselves more effectively to succeed as a healthy team or as healthy relations. Can we see that Agile can be viewed from this perspective also? Yes, if we look from this perspective we will find that it makes sense to apply Agile to relationships in a certain aspect, not every of course.

3 The Term: Heartbeat Retrospective

The term Heartbeat Retrospective is from the Agile Alliance glossary, and the definition of which is,

The team meets regularly, usually adhering to the rhythm of its iterations, to explicitly reflect on the most significant events to have occurred since the previous such meeting, and take decisions aiming at remediation or improvement.
Heartbeat Retrospective from the [Heartbeat Retrospective]

The more practiced terminology for Heartbeat Retrospective is Retrospectives or Retros. The Retrospectives are very important and are usually conducted at the end of each iteration in the Agile process model. During Retrospectives, the Agile team reflects back on the iteration and learns what went wrong, what went well, and what actions to take up during upcoming iterations to become more productive and successful in terms of potentially shippable product increment. So, in the Software development process, the 12th Agile principle is being brought into action with this kind of Retrospectives or Retros.

4 Join the Blocks

Now, if we quickly revisit above three topics, we are close to finding the usefulness of Agile Retrospectives in relationships. We, the people, are having N number of relationships in our life. For example, with parents, with siblings, with loved ones, with teammates, with colleagues, with a manager, with a customer, with an end customer and many more.
Our relationships are the key ingredient of our personal and professional growth. We want those to be happy and healthy, but do we reflect and learn to improve and fine-tune our relationships? People hardly put any efforts on finding an answer to this question that works for them, or for the others. And that is often the reason for having broken contacts / relations with close family and friends, having an end to customer contracts or poor trust in relationships with our customers.
Suppose, there is a conflicting opinion between two senior team members and now the team is suffering due to this because they are not getting the right direction to proceed further. Or, suppose there is a misunderstanding between two friends and now they are not reaching each other to solve the misunderstanding and hence ruining their holy friendship.
In both the above examples, if they reflect on, what caused the conflict or the misunderstanding, how to act upon them, and how they can avoid them in the future, they will get their precious relations back to normal. It is therefore sensible to look at Agile as being helpful in our relationships.
In fact, it gives us tools to work upon them and apply Agile Retrospectives. Yes, we can definitely apply Agile Retrospectives to our relationships, rather we SHOULD.

Figure 4-1: Relationship Building (Image Source:

5 Agile Retrospectives For Relationships

Yes, that is possible. Our moods, our ways of communication, our feelings change quite often, and responding (not reacting) to such change is very important to have sustainable relationships. Teams can perform well, become very much productive, have a very good work-life balance if we start nurturing the relationship with each other. We can apply the theory of Retrospectives to our relationships to help our relationships do better.
Here are a few hints:

As like in an Agile team we should not skip such kind of Retros for Relationships. Trust me those will build our relations much stronger and help become fruitful. Those don't need to be professional, but a casual one. But keep in mind, their feedback is vital. Sometimes, a serious type of relationship conflicts, issues needs to be addressed as early as possible. In such scenario, we shouldn't wait until decided schedule to retrospect. Remember, any team or any individual succeeds with the help of successful relationships with each other involved therein.
With such Retros for Relationships, I am very much sure that we will be Happy to see our Happy: Business, Personal, and Professional Relationships.
After all,

What defines a relationship is the work that's involved to maintain it, and it's constantly changing.

― Neil Patrick Harris

So, let's respond to the changes and be Agile in our relationships as well!