Like any other recurring meeting, retros are prone to becoming boring and frustrating. As they are a primary mechanism for achieving continuous process improvement, this is the last thing any Agile leader would want.
A simple solution for avoiding this prominent danger is to switch gears occasionally and try new, fun retro formats. Among all of the available ways to do a retro, DAKI is especially suitable for teams who are past the early stages of a project.
DAKI stands for Drop-Add-Keep-Improve. It is an intuitive retrospective format that allows you to look at your work from a perspective similar to managing inventory. The topics you discuss during a DAKI retro are focused on cleaning up your process and replenishing your work with fresh new ideas for improvement.
The areas of conversation must fall under one of the following categories:
Under “Drop”, list everything that had a negative impact on your last Sprint. This could be anything that is slowing down or distracting the team and prevents it from delivering high-quality results. For example, if the team feels that they are spending too much time in meetings, suggesting to drop some of them would be a perfect fit for this category.
“Add” serves as a wish list for potential improvements that you could try during the next Sprint. This is the perfect spot for listing innovative ideas that facilitate improvement. The most typical example for this category would be tickets with ideas for trying new technologies and tools that would benefit the whole team and help you bring more value to your customers.
“Keep” is a category for listing good practices that helped the team during the last Sprint. Use it for adding positive things that you must remember and continue doing to keep your performance optimal. This is a natural continuation of the “Add” category and is a perfect spot for giving kudos to improvements that worked great and you wish to keep at all cost.
Under “Improve” add activities that are already happening but fail to give you the benefit you expected or could make even more impact with a little adjustment. Everything related to reducing technical debt would be fitting for this category.
Drop-Add-Keep-Improve retros are easy to apply and require no deviation from the golden rules for organizing a retrospective:
"Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand."
--Norm Kerth, Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Review
Begin by visualizing the four categories for grouping topics during the retro. They will serve as the foundation for doing this “process inventory management”. The typical visualization consists of four columns, drawn on a whiteboard.
Remote teams running their retros in ScatterSpoke can set up a DAKI retrospective with just a few clicks to select the pre-made template.
When the visualization is in place, and the whole team is gathered (physically or virtually), address the following questions regarding your last Sprint:
Each person writes their answers on separate tickets and places them under the appropriate category. The Scrum Master and the Product Owner have to pay close attention to the topics that come up and dedicate some time to each of them during the following discussion.
If you are unable to find common ground and agree on them at the end of it, put voting to good use. Provide everybody with three points and ask them to vote for the items of the highest significance in their opinion. Those with the highest number of votes at the end will be at the heart of your improvement efforts during the next Sprint.
When done voting, take the tickets with the highest number of votes and turn them into action items. To facilitate accountability, the Team Lead should specify a single owner to each action item and a deadline for processing it.
DAKI retrospectives are great for spicing things up after the early stages of a project. They allow you to inspect your work as you would manage the inventory of a store, escaping the mundanity of recurring meetings.
By running Drop-Add-Keep-Improve retros, you can keep your process neat and find ways to update it to facilitate improvement.