Retrospectives are vital to help an agile team move forward. Some teams take this light and don’t focus on this meeting. Don’t do this with your team. Read on to know why!
Retrospective meetings complete a half of the “Check” part in the PDCA cycle (the other half is covered by the Iteration Review). They give an opportunity to the Manager, Team and Scrum Master in understanding the way things are moving and how they can be improved.
Here’s what happens by “not” focusing on this meeting:
- Problems are multiplied – Problems are inevitable, especially when the team has just started with Agile. The positive approach is to acknowledge the problem and collectively find a solution. Without the retrospective meeting, these problems go unnoticed and over a period of time they multiply. This can be avoided by timely retrospectives, that are properly executed
- Team loses their voice – One of the core ideas of every Agile methodology is to empower the team. This also means that the team is given an opportunity to raise their concerns, brainstorm and find solutions. If they don’t have a forum to raise their voice, they ultimately lose it
- Feedback not received in time – Retrospectives give feedback at the right time to Manager and Scrum Master on the way things are working. This is critical because tailoring is a constant process within Agile teams and with every iteration the situation must improve. This meeting let those with authority to receive the right kind of feedback, at right times
- Individuals aren’t motivated – Giving an opportunity to team members to voice their opinion goes a long way in motivating them. Nothing makes an Agile project a big success than highly motivated and engaged team members
- Collaboration decreases – Retrospective meetings greatly improves collaboration among team members. Done the right way, it opens them up and fosters constructive feedback
Here are some tips to effectively run a retrospective meeting:
#1 Set the Stage
This is very crucial because it gets the team members in the right mood for active participation. Normally this is done by:
- Asking for expectations from team members
- Summarizing the key events of the iteration on a timeline
- Setting a conducive environments for participants to be frank and open in their communication
#2 Gather Data
Once everyone is ready to contribute, gather relevant data to be discussed.
One of the ways is to Summarize the key events of the Iteration on a timeline. This sets the right context for team members to look back at key achievements / issues from the iteration and come up with discussion points.
Let the team members write the points on post-it notes that can be put on the white board. It is preferable to use different colors for Positive and Improvement points.
#3 Generate Insights
Once the discussion items are generated, discuss them with the team members.
- Paste the post-it notes on the white board grouped by the color
- Discuss each point and let the respective team member elaborate if needed
- Use this opportunity to group related points
- Once everything on the table is clarified, use a technique like dot voting to narrow down the major pain points
For dot voting technique, the number of votes allowed per user may be about 20% of the total available points
#4 Agree on Action Items
Once the major points are chosen from the available list, discuss and agree on action items. It is very important to reach a consensus and implement them during the next sprint.
Take sometime to review action items from the previous sprint – both to follow up and also to avoid any duplicates.
#5 Close the Retrospective
Close the meeting with a recap of the major pain points to be focused on during the next iteration and the action items. Make sure to get “buy in” from the majority of team members.
Don’t ignore the points that didn’t make it to the cut. Keep them in view and see if some of them turns out to be critical during the iteration.
Here are some tips for an effective meeting:
- Fresh retrospective ideas – Work on innovative and different ideas to run retrospective meetings. Use websites like Fun Retrospective for new ideas and keep it an interesting meeting that the team looks forward to
- Commit on limited and practical number of items to improve – Go out of retrospective meetings with 1 positive aspect to continue and 1 negative aspect to improve, at the least. Don’t commit for too many improvements in a single iteration, be conservative and do it well
- Talk less and let the team do the talking – Unlike other meetings, team members play the central role in retrospective meetings. Set the right context to facilitate the flow of points, step back and let the team do all the talking. However, play the role of facilitator when needed!
Hope you agree with me that retrospective meetings help an agile project to succeed. What are your ideas for an effective retrospective meeting? Share it as a comment to this post and I am all ears!