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The Prime Directive

“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

I learnt of the Prime Directive a few years ago, when I started exploring retrospectives and what makes them so valuable. Retrospectives are my favourite scrum event. It is also the one I find most difficult, both as a facilitator and a participant.

As facilitators, we create a space of psychological safety, where our team can speak about what happened, how they feel and how they can improve. When things don’t go according to plan, an easy way out is to blame someone. But if we’re working as a team, we should all be accountable for what the team delivers. The prime directive is a good way to set the scene in your retrospectives. It is helpful to make this visible and to read out to the team at the start of a session. It helps create a safe place for the team to collaborate.

As a participant, I need to remember that my team mates did the best that they could at that time. I need to show empathy for them and understand their perspective . The Prime Directive helps us build better relationships with our team members and view them as capable human beings, doing their best.

If you haven’t already, try it out and let us know if this makes a difference in your next session.

1 thought on “The Prime Directive”

  1. Spot on, retrospectives highlight what worked and what did not, if we are aware of the issue the next cycle will be better informed and produce better solutions and quality.

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