Heartbeat Retrospectives need to be performed after every Iteration!
We had a very interesting discussion during the Retrospective Gathering in Bath 2008. Tim Bacon, Tim McKinnon and I wondered how long such a Retrospective should be and how intensive the experience needs to be.
The Project retrospective has a different purpose. It wants to give the organization and the people who have been in the project the chance to learn from the project. But — the project is already over.
The heartbeat retrospective is about helping the team to steer, to control, its own work process. It is more comparable with a debriefing of military combat teams. It can be more compared by seeing fire fighters comming back from a mission. It is about enabling the team to reach its peak performance. The development team is still on its overall mission to accomplish the vision that guides the project. But the teams takes a take a short break for orientation. A short break that allows the team to change the course or adapt the mission goals in order to reach the overall vision.
The ScrumMaster must take action after the Heartbeat Retrospective. He must improve the situation as fast as possible.
Issues that have very deep root causes are maybe hidden behind the more important, more urgent activity of acting right now. This can be solved by giving every couple of iterations a much longer time for a retrospective.