Effective Retrospective
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A Retrospective

A retrospective

The team were always a little tense, stressed after doing the review meeting, and going straight into the retrospective it was always a little subdued and quiet. Therefore it became important that the retrospective was a time for the team to relax and have a little fun. To create the right atmosphere for the team to be able to be reflective and creative.

In the beginning there was a tendency for the team to rush through the retrospective so that we could get on with the planning. Due to this there was very little reflection and more about ‘going through the motions’ to tick that box in our scrum maturity checklist – which was very much the wrong approach.  Therefore the team did not see the value of the retro. At this point it was necessary to improve the retro and to add value, otherwise the retro could have been dropped all together.

I was given advice to keep changing the way that we did the retro and I found a surprisingly large amount of on-line resources. I enjoyed looking for new and interesting ways to do the retrospective, and the team enjoyed the surprise of what I was going to ask them to do next.

Another piece of advice was to keep track of the actions from the retrospective. In the beginning the actions were abandoned to a lonely section of wall, where we would maybe look at them. The change we made here was to add them to the main scrum wall and at the beginning of each retrospective we would review the previous sprint actions and at the end of each retrospective we would review the new actions and assign responsibilities.

The more interactive the exercises were, I found that we got more out of the team on how they felt about the previous sprint and how they would like to improve the next sprint. Exercises that involved drawing were very popular, but the most popular was the gingerbread man decorating (which honestly had little to do with the retrospective and more about having fun just before the holiday).

Retrospective exercises

“Postcards from the sprint” was very popular for doing the ‘thanks you’s’ and ‘how you felt about the last sprint’. For this you need a plain card for each participant. On one side you write the following:

After team have finished the postcard you mix them up and hand them out to different participants. The team then have to draw a picture that illustrates what was written on the other side. After this everyone reads out their post card and shows the picture. Lots of surprising and funny results and a more relaxing and less intimidating (for the more shy participants).

A good reflective exercise was the “hot air balloon”. Draw a picture of a hot air balloon, with a storm on the top left and the sun on the top right. To reflect on the last sprint: at the bottom of the picture where the balloon was tied down write “what was holding us down/ back”, where the fire to heat the air is write “what lifted us up/ kept us moving forward”. For reflecting on the sprint head; on the storm write “what is ahead of us that is going to cause us turbulence?” and on the sun write “what is going to keep us up and ahead”. Invite the team to write on post-it notes for each of these four topics. Review each of the post it notes and put actions in where appropriate.



A retro on the retro

At the end of each retrospective I would always invite feedback from the team on the retrospective itself, so that I could keep improving on the retrospectives. A quick way of doing it was to ask the team to write 2 – 3 words down on a post it note and put it on the door as they were leaving. Some did not work as well as others, but you learn from it too.

As a final note, a packet of biscuits or sweets always cheered the team up and motivated them!

In summary

  • Food
  • Keep changing the exercises
  • Make it fun
  • Keep track of actions
  • Get feedback on the retrospective