The efficacy of project retrospectives on organizational process improvement initiatives in software development

Darren R Hayes, Pace University


A project retrospective is one of many best practices in software development, as noted in numerous articles and books on the subject. However, it is not an accepted practice by many companies, given the resources often required. For the purposes of this research, a project retrospective is a meeting of those involved in a software development project with the goal of ascertaining what worked well and needs to be kept for the next project as well as what was problematic and needs to change. To fully understand how to improve a project continuously, everyone who was involved in the project needs to be present at the retrospective including customer representatives, managers and all other relevant personnel. Removing all of these people from their normal duties is very costly and many companies are reluctant to invest the time and money because there are no studies to seriously consider an organization’s return on investment. That return on investment could for example be measured in terms of improvements in employee retention, a more efficient development lifecycle or a marked improvement in customer satisfaction. This dissertation will seek to answer the question: What is the impact of a retrospective on organizational processes improvement initiatives in software development? It will answer those questions through the use of two research instruments: (1) an unstructured survey and (2) a case study. This research will show how retrospectives can and do have a positive impact on process improvement initiatives and why retrospectives should be classified as a best practice in software development. Like so many areas of software development, there are no standards or governing bodies for the field of retrospectives, although Norm Kerth could be viewed as the founder of contemporary retrospectives and their associated practices, as detailed in his often-cited book, Project Retrospectives . This research will not only provide scientific evidence that retrospectives have an impact but the research will also be helpful in providing some techniques for how retrospectives can have a positive impact, which is especially evident from the case study in Chapter 6.

Subject Area

Operations research|Computer science

Recommended Citation

Hayes, Darren R, "The efficacy of project retrospectives on organizational process improvement initiatives in software development" (2008). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3336168.



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