Retrospectives

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Retrospectives are an essential part of our team’s workflow. After each iteration, we get together to collect insights and feedback. By doing so, our teams ensure they have time to celebrate achievements, learn from mistakes and steer their efforts along a process of continuous improvement.

What are the steps of a retrospective?

Retrospectives will often be made up of 3 simple steps: a) What went well? b) What could we have done better? c) Action items for further improvements. More in-depth retrospectives can use the following model for deeper analysis:

1) Set the stage

A brief check-in allows everyone to get ready for the retrospective, i.e. we gauge how everybody is feeling about the past iteration.

2) Gather data - What?

The data gathering stage is all about collecting different viewpoints based on the metrics of how the sprint went, external feedback the team has received or things they have observed during the iteration. For retrospectives of longer time periods, we use a timeline to collect major milestones from participants and discuss them in a group.

3) Generate insights - So What?

Here we go into problem solving mode. Using brainstorming activities we are able to determine the reasons why things went well or not. For example, the 5 Whys can be used to identify root causes or by imagining The Worst We Could Do, our teams find out what they need to improve on.

4) Decide what to do - Now What?

Now it’s time for the team to create actions that will help them to become even better in the next iteration. Practices like Circle of Influence helps to focus them on what they can accomplish as a team. We find Divide the Dollar to be useful as well as other dot-voting activities when determining what we want to focus on.

5) The closing perspective

Finally, in the closing, we want to make sure that everyone gives their final input on how the retrospective went.

Things to keep in mind when running retrospectives

Retrospectives done right are a powerful tool to help your team open up and have meaningful conversations. As with any meeting, it’s important to ensure everybody is on board with the working arrangements, such as being on time and a willingness to contribute. As the facilitator of the meeting, you can do a great job at providing a space where participants feel encouraged to share what’s really on their mind.

Looking for ways to make your retrospectives more engaging? Retromat is a tool that helps you think of different ways to facilitate a retrospective. In terms of online collaboration, we found meeting on zoom.us with Realtime Board and collaborating on our retrospective notes in a shared Google Slides presentation to be most effective.

Thanks for reading our take on retrospectives. If you'd like to learn more about running retrospectives effectively, don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments section or get in touch using our contact form.

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