Book review – The Retrospective Handbook

Last year, Pat Kua published his book called The Retrospective Handbook.  He released the book on leanpub, the popular self publishing platform on which I also published my e-book ‘Kanban for sceptics’.

I have been following Pat online for some years.  His blog covers many different topics, including agile retrospectives.  Being a huge retrospectives fan, I tried some of the exercises and techniques Pat described, with success.

A few years later I contacted Pat to ask if he was interested to run a retrospective workshop at the XP 2011 conference in Madrid.  To my delight, he was enthusiastic about the idea, so we developed the workshop online and met for the first time in person in Madrid.

Our workshop was called ‘Retrospectives in Action’ and was mainly focused on practicing retrospective exercises with a general theoretical introduction.

The workshop was a success and I learned a lot from Pat’s facilitation skills.

That’s why I was glad to hear about his book.  Finally a practitioner that shares his findings about retrospectives (after Ester Derby and Diana Larsen’s book of course)!


At first, I thought the book was mainly going to cover retrospective exercises.  But I quickly realized that Pat’s goal was to explain what it takes to do a great retrospective.

Starting with a chapter on the history and goals of the retrospective meeting, he dives into practice:

  • How can you prepare?
  • What are good ways to facilitate?
  • How do you handle remote teams?
  • What to do after the retrospective?
  • Which are the most common retrospective smells?
  • How can you prevent retrospecives from getting boring?

These are all questions that should be on your mind as a retrospective facilitator.  In practice however, most facilitators think about which exercise they should run.  Instead, it is equally important to improve your facilitation skills, tackle anti-patterns head-on and make sure actions are implemented afterwards.  The exercise alone will not bring any value.

This is what Pat made quite clear in his book: Retrospectives are more than doing fun exercises.  They require proper preparation, decent facilitation and follow-up.

If you believe as much in the potential of retrospectives as me and Pat, and you want to benefit from the experience of a practitioner, this book is for you.

You can buy an e-book version on leanpub or a hard-copy on amazon.

About Nick Oostvogels

Hi, I'm an independent management consultant. My biggest strengths are located in the fields of teamwork, motivation, leadership and continuous improvement. In the IT industry you find a lot of these values in the agile movement, in which I often act as a project leader, product owner or coach. My interests go a lot further, into other industries where we find these values in lean production. Besides that, I try to broaden my horizon as much as possible, always looking for better ways of doing business.

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