5 points to keep in mind for your next Scrum retrospectives

2020-01-28 Maxence Dalmaisscrum

It’s no secret that here at Retrolution we advocate for carefully planned retrospectives.

Because Scrum retrospectives are recurrent, it can be tempting to put low energy on its organization and facilitation. The retrospective focuses on people’s perceptions and ideas, so you might think you don’t really need any preparation. WRONG. But if you are here, I guess you already know that.

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A scrum retrospective requires discipline and organization, just like a rugby scrum

We often hear that retrospectives meetings are boring or that people are too quiet. In some organizations, people find them useless, that nothing changes and that the same topics are always brought to the table. The good news is that there is nothing you can’t change. Quite the opposite actually. How? Take some time to think about your retrospective agenda.

Because the Scrum retrospectives are recurrent you should put some energy into its organization. Otherwise, the effectiveness of the meeting will eventually collapse.

Here are 5 points to keep in mind when planning your next retrospective meetings.

1 - Focus on people

As a solution provider, it might be tempting for us to explain to you that we are creating a magical tool that will solve all your retrospective related pains. Actually, by mixing both educational content, AI-powered advice, and software tools, we want to help you run smoother and more effective retrospectives. But besides all, the main idea is to free you some time and handle some complexity for you, so you can focus more on the people.

People is one of the pilar of the Agile Manifesto and should always be a center of attention during all scrums ceremonies.

If people are too shy during the retrospective, it’s important to understand why. Maybe they don’t feel confident talking because of too many or the wrong person in the room? Maybe they have something else in mind? In any case, it’s important to take the time to reflect about it and try to understand what’s going on.

We all know that the goal of the retrospective is to reach a collective decision regarding actions that we think should improve the way the team works. This is a long a complex process If you forget why and who do you do it for, probably this won’t work.

2 - Explain the context

Focussing on People is really important, but maybe participants don’t even think the retrospective can help them. If so, why would they be engaged? One good exercise to know how each person stands regarding the retrospective is the ESVP checkin activity. It will give you the opportunity to know where everybody stands regarding the retro.

If people are new to retrospectives and engagement is running low, it’s always good to re-explain the logic behind the retrospective. In my opinion, the retrospective is the best time to create a shared vision and improve the day to day work.

3 - Give everyone the opportunity to talk in the first 5 minutes

If you don’t fancy following a retrospective framework and you need some more concrete bits of advice, keep this simple rule in mind :

Give everyone the opportunity to talk in the first 5 minutes of the retrospective meeting

Following this simple rule will ensure everyone feels confident to express themself during the retrospective. The retrospective is not about hearing a single opinion, but creating a real team spirit, collaboration and shared engagement.

4 - Vary the activities

Because of a mix of lack of preparation or focus on people and the context, a bad understanding of retrospective goals and we got to admit bad jobs of currently available tools, too many teams are thinking of retrospectives as writing some post-it and file them in columns. Such variation of this activity includes Starfish, 4Ls, Daki and much more. Rely solely on such activities is extremely harmful

Don't use a single activity for the whole retro
Don't use a single activity for the whole retro

Your goal as a facilitator is to set the frame that will help the team moves forward. Some teams like games, some don’t. Some teams like graphical activities, some don’t. That’s ok. But trust our experience: if you always run the same activity, people will get bored after a few iterations.

I personally like to ask questions which would require the participants to project themself in a different timeframe. A retrospective meeting has to integrate learning from the previous iteration and delivered some action for the next one, but it’s sometimes good to ask people to reflect or project on a longer period.

5 - Set, Plan, Track and Review your actions

The whole purpose of the retrospective is to get the whole team to agree and aligned about the usefulness of a list of actions to be applied during the next iteration.

Your whole retrospective should be constructed to reach that goal. If you don’t, chances are by the end you won’t get much improvement over time. People might still like the retrospective as it could be a good time for the team to exchange, and depends on activities even have some fun. But that is not the main purpose of the retrospective.

There is much to says regarding actions, but to keep it short, you must end your retrospective with a list of actions. You probably want to plan when that action should be done or assigned it to somebody. Later, it will be important to check if the actions have been done and measure its impact if possible.

But, how to?

If you like those ideas but maybe find if complicated to keep everything in head or very time consuming to carefully plan your retro, it’s exactly why we build Retrolution. We think to be very different from other online tools, so why don’t you give a try to our retrospective agenda planner?