Do's & Dont's for your Agile Retrospective Session

This is based on ScrumAlliance's article: Do's and Don'ts of Agile Retrospectives: Tips for healthier retrospectives

The SoftwareDevTools team is on a quest to make Agile Ceremonies a lot more productive and efficient, especially for remote teams. In order to do so we've crafted some tools like Agile Retrospectives for Confluence, and our famous Stand.Bot for Stride & Slack. But we also maintain this blog. When looking for new topics to write about, we realized we haven't done a simple do's & dont's guide for Agile Retrospectives.
So, here we go!

Agile Retrospectives

Agile Retrospectives

One of the core Agile practices is to inspect or reflect on the work done and adapt accordingly to achieve the highest possible value: We inspect the software in business reviews or demo meetings to ensure that we are delivering the right product. And for Agile Retrospectives, we inspect how the team performs and interacts to make sure that we are working in the right way and that we keep improving, and if there are any changes needed, they are done.

A key point for Valuable and productive Agile retrospectives is the work invested in maximizing the benefits of the retrospective meeting and adapt according to its outputs. Or else, the Retrospectives session will turn into a useless ritual and you'll be dealing with reluctance towards Retrospectives.

Here's a short list of what to do and what to avoid for your team to get on the way to continuous improvement.

"Do"

Make the retrospective a safe zone to express issues: Team members should not feel worried about expressing their opinions on things that need to be improved. They should be totally comfortable to speak. You should make use of the "Prime Directive"

Ask, "What else?" instead of, "Anything else?" These small things matter. Team members should feel welcomed to contribute instead of a message that says, "Enough wasting time" or "I'm bored already."

Motivate the team to participate. In a team new to Agile, you can use any icebreaker dynamic to encourage all members to participate. You can come up with an engaging activity that'll make sure everyone had their input in the Retrospective. Or you can find many activities on the Retro-mat site.

Give a hand to introverts and shy people. Everyone's opinion is important. What you need to do is to give your team safety and an undercover invitation to share, rather than asking them directly, which will make them feel like they're on the spot. Something like "We'd love to hear from the group in the corner" will have a better reaction. Try it!

Plan the retrospective: After the team breaks the ice and becomes confident that opinions and ideas mentioned in the retrospective are valuable and make real changes, you can change the retrospective to another format. There's plenty of custom retrospectives formats that you can use in order to keep your team engaged and according to their needs. Again, check out the Retro-mat website for more ideas.
The ScrumMaster can gather feedback from the team, and agree in advance about the agenda of the retrospective, in order to focus on deep discussion and problem solving during the meeting. This will keep your meeting focused and the attendees engaged.

Make it fun! This is always best, especially if team morale is low or the team is new to Agile. Try to make the retrospective meeting an enjoyable experience. Be creative with this. What works for some, may not work for others.

Keep track of previous retrospectives and review results. This is important. The team will lose trust and appreciation of the value of the meeting if action items are not applied and the owner does not make any progress. This will render the whole session useless.

Prioritize action items. You need to assign an owner (not really who's doing the work, but who'll make sure it gets done). Keep a backlog of impediments and action items, in prioritized order, to get the greatest value. Some teams even add these action items to their sprint queue.

In order to keep the conversation focused, provide transparency, and eliminate bias, the SoftwareDevTools team has created a handy Atlassian Confluence template, perfect for beginners, large teams, and remote teams to hold their retrospective. You can customize the format, vote on action items to prioritize and assign an owner to ensure follow up. You can check it out in our Official Retros site or in the Atlassian Marketplace.

Agile Retrospectives for Confluence

Timebox. Just as in other Scrum activities, you can benefit from timeboxing to get the most out of the retrospective meeting and keep the team focused on achieving the required outcome.

"Dont"

Play the blame game. This is not a meeting where team members blame each other for the bad things that happened. Adopt a positive attitude toward the meeting and the issues shared. The objective is to get better. Again, the prime directive is important here.

Suppress feelings. If some team members feel depressed or unsatisfied because of some practices, give them some space to let these feelings out. Discuss them rationally instead of suppressing or denying them. Don't let the negative attitude control the meeting either.

Include uninvited external members. This is a team meeting. The PO or other managers should not attend unless invited by the team to discuss specific issues. Like couples, teams need and value some privacy.

This are just some of the tips that Scrum Alliance shares with us. Do you have any other "Do" or "Don't" that you think we should be sharing with our community? Let us know!


Trying to improve your #Agile practices? OR are you getting started with Agile? In a remote team? Check out our products for Agile teams at SoftwareDevTools. We focus on making agile ceremonies more effective and easier to adopt for remote teams.

Agile retrospectives for confluence add-on

Check out our Atlassian tools:
Agile Retrospectives for Confluence
Scrum Poker for Confluence
Stand.bot for Stride: A bot to automate daily updates.
And for Slack also!


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