Last week while I was presenting my talk on retrospectives at WebExpo in Prague, I asked my audience do to a small exercise.

I asked them to raise their hands if they thought they were did(most of the time) the best job they could do.
I asked them to look around and realize that about 90% of the hands were raised.
Then I asked to raise their hand if they thought their colleagues were doing the best job the could most of the time. Now I had less then 50% with their hands raised.

How is it that 90% of us did the best we could, but only 50% think all of us do this?

The prime directive first explained in Norman Kerth’s book on project retrospectives is about realizing that your colleagues did the best they could in the sitution, just as you did.

When people read the prime directive they say, of course. And so do I. Yet it is not that easy. We did a retrospective with 5 coaches last week. A few days after it, one of us wrote, did we really respect the prime directive? Although I personally don’t see where we did not, the fact that one of us says we did not, my gut feeling says it is true.

Same thing during the WebExpo conference, I totally disagreed with what one other speaker said. Although I did not react to him while he was talking (I treat other speakers in the way I wish they respect me) I internally did not agree and started not respecting him. That was wrong. I only realized that after I saw that person was connected with someone I very much respected.
The good thing is, seeing that relation made me second guess my opinion.
The bad part is, it took too long to take action. (I only started writing an e-mail to get in tough with this that person to understand what I can learn from his opinion of agile, before writing his post).

When have you been violating the prime directive, and what are you doing about it?