Pretrospectives : The death of any project!


If you’ve never heard of “pretrospectives”, that’s because it’s a made up word.

I was working in a team who were “a little frustrated”, so we vented by writing our Fragile Manifesto. It wasn’t a new idea, but it served its purpose and made us chuckle. It came up in conversation a few days ago so I took a look at it again, and one of the things that stood out was the “pretrospective”, which continues to be a problem. So here’s our definition.

“Pretrospectives : Similar to the Retrospectives of Agile, but they are done before any work is started, hence the “Pre”. These should last as long as it takes to identify any possible problem you may encounter during the lifespan of the project. Possible problems should not only be discussed, but documented thoroughly. Remember to include many blank pages, with the words “Page left blank intentionally”. This will increase the page count, and therefore the value of the documentation. Pretrospectives should be by far the longest phase of any Dawdle.”

I guess you now realise this is a jab at that waterfall approach of trying to define everything up front, only to find all the requirements have changed by the time you actually start to code, if you ever start that is. I’ve worked on projects where external consultants have produced hundreds of thousands of pages of documentation, at a cost in excess of £1 per page, only to have the whole lot scrapped.

I tend to think good DBAs are worriers, constantly thinking about what could go wrong and trying to figure out how to avoid it, or what they will do to fix it if it does happen. You have to be careful how you present this information to others or it can feed into the mindset that leads to pretrospectives. In a list of pros & cons, some people can’t see past the cons. 🙂

You have to break down large ventures into smaller, easily accomplishable tasks or you don’t stand a chance of even getting started, let alone finishing. I often say the thought of writing a book is really daunting, but everyone can write a page. A book is a collection of pages. You can call things user stories and story points or magic pixies steps. I don’t care. You’ve just got to stop sitting around “planning” and get something done…

I don’t really know what the point of this post was, but I suspect it was another way of me venting. 🙂



Author: Tim...

DBA, Developer, Author, Trainer.

2 thoughts on “Pretrospectives : The death of any project!”

  1. Actually this is a good idea. It has already been invented, but don’t let that hold you back. It’s called a premortem and it’s a way to get creative with the dangers each team member worries about.

    In a premortem the project team describes how the project has failed, before it has started. So a team member might say (or write on a post-it note) “the project failed because we tested on very little data and when it got in production performance was a horrible mess” or “the project failed because none paid attention to security and compliancy and our customer data was leaked after just a couple of weeks”. Documenting these pretrospectives is a good idea indeed.

    I would like to see these pretrospectives/premortems more often in future projects.

  2. Marcel: I guess there is a big difference between these two. In the “premortem” it is being done for a positive reason, and I’m sure it is time-boxed. The problem with the “pretrospective” is it’s not time-boxed and nothing positive comes from it. It just drags on for months with people saying why it can’t be done, even though they know it will have to be done. 🙂



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