The intersection of technology and leadership

The practice of reflection in action

In a previous article, I explained how the most essential agile practice is reflection. In this article, I outline examples how organisations, teams and people use reflection in action.

Reflection through retrospectives

Retrospectives are powerful tools that whole teams use to reflect on their current working practices to understand what they might do to continuously improve. As an author of a “The Retrospective Handbook“, I am clearly passionate about the practice because they explictly give teams permission to seek ways to improve and when executed well, create a safe space to talk about issues.

Reflection through coaching

Effective leaders draw upon coaching as a powerful skill that helps individuals reflect on their goals and actions to help them grow. Reflective questions asked by a coach to a coachee uncover barriers or new opportunities for a coachee to reach their own goals.

Coaching is a skill in itself and requires time for both the person doing the coaching, and for the people being coached. When done well, coaching can massively improve the performance and satisfication of team members by helping coachees reach their own goals or find ways to further develop themselves.

Reflection through daily/weekly prioritisation

I have run a course for Tech Leads for the past several years and in this course, I teach future Tech Leads to make time during their week to reflect and prioritise. I see many people in leadership positions fall into a reactive trap, where they are too busy “doing” without considering if it is the most important task they should be doing.

Effective leaders build time into their schedules to regularly review all their activities and to prioritise them. In this process, leaders also determine what is the best way of accomplishing these activities which is often involving and enabling others rather than doing it themselves.

Reflection through 1 to 1 feedback

When I work with teams, I teach team members the principles of giving and receiving effective feedback. I truly believe in the Prime Directive – that everyone is trying to do the best that they can, given their current skills and the situation at hand. A lot of conflict in working enviornments is often due to different goals, or different perspectives and it is easy for people to be frustrated with each other.

When team members do not know how to give an receive feedback, being on either side can be a really scary prospect. 1 to 1 feedback gives people opportunites to reflect on themselves and make space for personally being more effective and for strengthening the trust and relationships of the people involved.

Reflection through refactoring

Refactoring is an essential skill for the agile software developer and a non-negotiable part of development.

Three strikes and you refactor – Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code (Martin Fowler)

Developers should be making tiny refactorings as they write and modify software as it forces developer to reflect on their code and think explicitly about better designs or ways of solving problems, one bit at a time.

Reflection through user feedback

In more recent years I have seen the User Experience field better integrated with agile delivery teams through practices such as user research, user testing, monitoring actual usage and collecting user feedback to constantly improve the product.

While good engineering practices help teams build systems right, only through user feedback can teams reflect on if they are building the right system.


Reflection is the most powerful way that teams can become agile. Through reflection, teams can better choose the practices they want and gain value immediately because they understand why they are adopting different ways of working.


  1. Serhiy Yevtushenko

    Hi, Patrick

    I feel that one more kind of reflection is omited – reflection by keeping a daily journal/notes.

  2. Patrick

    Hi Serhiy! You are indeed correct that keeping a daily journal is a useful reflection practice. I do not see this regularly adopted by all members of an agile team, but still definitely useful.

    Thanks for leaving a comment!

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