A retrospective is where the whole team gets together to agree a minimum of one improvement to be implemented in the next sprint.
Retrospectives are about driving higher performance in the team and therefore good topics to discuss are:
- Product quality and how to improve it
- Technical debt and how to reduce it
- Communication and collaboration effectiveness
- Team goals, vision, and charter and how to be more of a cohesive team
- Productivity and how to increase it
- Customer value and how to deliver more
When it comes to choosing an improvement action, the following tactics might be considered:
- Eliminate low value activities that waste time
- Automate low value or repetitive activities
- Make things transparent when you need to create buy in
- Measure to be more empirical
- Add to the definition of done to improve quality
- Standardise where possible
The 7 tips
The art of a good retro is to design it ahead of time. Having them can be a great way to structure a retrospective. Some examples of useful themes might be: lean waste, definition of done, tech debt, trust, team values, etc.
Set up in advance
Ensure all of the tech you’re using works, and everyone has access to it before the session begins. One thing that will kill everyone’s enthusiasm is having to wait while the technical issues are resolved. Worse still, if one person hasn’t done it and everyone is waiting on them.
The retrospective is a participatory decision-making meeting that requires everyone to focus. Having tools like email, Slack and GitHub open during the session will generate distractions during the meeting and cause it to lose momentum or even prevent it from going in the first place.
Break the ice
Ice breakers are intended to get people talking with the intent that once they start, they’ll continue to feel comfortable contributing to the remainder of the session. Some ideas for online icebreakers are: show me your shoes, show your last played song on your phone, fetch something green. Then invite each person to say a few words about their item.
Without facts and data, the team will be only able to share opinions that are often biased. Even sound opinions can be easily dismissed or trumped by the HiPPO. If the retro is about software quality, then having some data about defects will go a long way to drive the conversation. Additionally, having something you can measure will tell you if its improved.
Create structured participation.
There is a danger with an online retrospective for all participants to type all of their thoughts and reflections into an online tool like mural then the scrum master reads everything aloud. This instantly destroys any hope of conversation and collaboration. Facilitation techniques such as dividing large groups into small breakout groups are a good way to encourage participation and is supported by most conferencing tools.
Atomise the solution
Making change is hard at the best of times but remember you only need to find an improvement that is small enough to fit within the next sprint. The action doesn’t need to solve the whole problem, so long as it starts you off on the journey that’s OK.