A powerful and often minimized event within Agile frameworks (Scrum, Kanban, OpenAgile, etc.) is the Retrospective. This event is critical for the entire agile team to advance and become effective. Plus, if done regularly and creatively, it can inform and change the organization that the team is within.

Some common missteps for the Retrospective (avoid these traps):

  • Doing the same activity over and over again (e.g. Start doing – Stop doing – Continue Doing, or Pluses & Deltas)
  • Using the same materials over and over again (e.g. Excel or Whiteboard)
  • Not preparing (e.g. Doing the event without much consideration for the reality of the current period of time)
  • Having the same person facilitate each time (e.g. Only facilitated by the Scrum Master)
  • Failing to create a space or environment that is engaging and empowering for others to participate (e.g. The same one or two people speak while focusing on a screen the entire time)

The above missteps are all too common as we believe that the Retrospective is just another meeting. This is not true. Based on plenty of experience and even more insights from fellow coaches and consultants, the Retrospective may be the most important event that an agile team participates in ever. This Agile event allows for regular review and discussions based on actual work and interaction. This is where continuous learning gets an opportunity to accelerate your team’s efforts to become more effective and joyful.

On the positive side, here are tips to improve the Retrospective:

  • Prepare for each Retrospective based on the current Sprint or regular work period – take some time to reflect on the last period of time, identify how the team behaved and communicated, consider what areas or concepts may help the team, brainstorm ideas that may help the team
  • Support others to co-facilitate a Retrospective – continue to build capacity of fellow team members through co-facilitation which will likely bring new ideas and energy to the event
  • Feel free to use a theme for the Retrospective. One example of a theme is how well the team is working together in various ways such as pairing, reviews, and discussions.
  • Research new techniques and activities – there are many resources out there with hundreds of creative and dynamic activities, such as Tasty Cupcakes, Innovation Games, and Fun Retrospectives.
  • Shadow other Retrospectives – seeing is believing when it comes to new approaches and learning. This needs to be done with permission from the other team. It would also be a good opportunity to co-prepare with that team’s Scrum Master or facilitator and then reflect after it is done.
  • Be inspired by some of the most creative thinkers in the world. My favourites include Adam Weisbart – who created the Retrospective Cookies, among other things; Sunni Brown – who helped to empower the Doodle Revolution; and Michael Sahota – who continues to bring his heart and authenticity to his work.

What other improvements and tips have you used to make the Retrospective fantastic?

I would love to hear your stories so more of us can benefit from the communities’ learning as a whole. There are definitely many great resources and successful applications of retrospectives across the world. I can’t wait to learn from you.

I hope that each of you continues to find joy and engagement in your team interactions and that you feel empowered to contribute positively to those around you.


Originally posted via LinkedIn on May 31, 2016.

Warm regards,

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