Retrospectives should be one of the most important events for Agile teams. Yet, very often they turn into routine and boring meetings, endless discussions with no clear outcome, or are even skipped. We’ve been struggling with this a lot ourselves, and we have come up with some ideas that – in case you are in a similar situation, might help you inspire this meeting again and make it interesting and beneficial for the team.
As we all know, empirical processes, such as Scrum, rely heavily on learning from experiments and experience. Hence, doing regular inspection and adaption of how we work as a team is essential to a healthy and efficient process.
Retrospectives are actually a structured approach to analyze our current practices, reflect on the overall Sprint and how we work together, and come to decisions on how we can improve. Furthermore, they are a good opportunity to celebrate what we have done well, which is also important for establishing sustainable practices and high-performing teams.
The retrospective meeting is a structured event, and it follows a certain flow, so that we can arrive at the final goal – analyzed observations with specific decisions for improvement. The meeting facilitator typically goes through specific step sequence.
How do you come up with interesting and new ideas for each retrospective, so that you can keep the team engaged?
Well, we created the Retrospective Cards to help you in this quest over and over again. Let’s see how we use them.
Step 1: Think about the focus of the upcoming retrospective. Is it a standard event, or does the team need to follow up on a specific problem/learning they have discovered? Or maybe everything goes smoothly and you want to focus on keeping the good practices of the team and celebrate success?
Step 2: Look at the retrospective flow, and for each step, pick one or more cards with tools and techniques that fit the specific outcome you want to achieve.
Hint: On each card, you will find an indication of the step it belongs to (e.g. Preparation, Create Trustful Environment, and so on; the approximate time you need and tips how to do it).
Step 3: Read carefully the instructions. Note that you might need to prepare some materials in advance (e.g. voting dots, sticky notes, markers, etc.).
Step 4: Go and have an awesome retrospective!
Here is an example for a 1.5-hour retrospective* we recently designed using the ideas from the cards. The team’s context was that they had failed to finish their planned work for 3 iterations in a row, so we had to dig into the problem and look for ways to address it.
*5 min buffer planned, if needed can be used as small break between Focus and Analyze phase, or to accommodate some more discussions in a topic
This is just one example of a retrospective designed to guide the team through a relatively tough and conflict-laden context by focusing them on the goals of the meeting, and allowing them to express their thoughts in a respectful and constructive way.