Agile Coach and Service Unit Leader
What is a retrospective?
According to the Scrum guide the Sprint retrospective is an opportunity for the Scrum Team to inspect itself and create a plan for improvements to be enacted during the next Sprint.
The Sprint Retrospective occurs after the Sprint Review and prior to the next Sprint Planning. The Scrum Master ensures that the event takes place and that attendants understand its purpose.
The Scrum guide does not define the exact duration of the event. It may vary based on the Sprint duration and needs of the team.
What are the success factors influencing its smooth running?
There are for sure multiple factors that could and should be taken into consideration. From my point of view a couple of main success factors are:
- All participants need to understand the purpose of the session, that it is not only “another meeting” just because we decided to follow the Scrum framework, but we are doing it to improve the team culture, delivery, and added value
- Understanding that every person is individual and by putting these individuals together is creating a unique mixture, once you understand your team chemistry you will be able to reach out to them much better
- Create a safe place, where everybody will be encouraged to speak openly
- Make it as fun and interactive as possible, during the regular Sprint there is enough focus and hard work which needs to be fulfilled by the team members and the retrospective should be more relaxing
- Provide a clear outcome of the retrospective, what did you agree on, what are the action points, what needs follow-up, etc. This will show the team that time on the retrospective was well spent.
Which pitfalls do we encounter usually during retrospectives?
We need to understand that team is a group of people put together to achieve some common goal. These team members are usually assigned to the team based on their skills and therefore it may happen that you will end up with a team with very “interesting” chemistry.
- The first pitfall which comes to my mind is a “silent retrospective”, where you keep asking questions, but you get no or very limited feedback. This usually happens with a new team where the team members do not know each other well enough and the team did not complete their “team journey” to becoming a team. For further information, I would recommend looking up the 5 stages of team development.
- The second scenario, as we said earlier, during the retrospective you want to create a safe environment where everybody can speak openly, however you also need to make sure that this openness does not end up in blaming and fingerpointing, therefore it is recommended to set up basic rules and try to follow them
- The last pitfall which I would like to mention, especially during the home office or remote work times is visual contact, try to make sure that if you are doing a retrospective virtually, every team member has the camera enabled, because the facial expression can say much more than words sometimes
What best practices from your experience you have and why?
What I would recommend from my own experience is to keep the retrospective fun and interactive. Which practices to choose also depends on the actual state and issue we are experiencing. There are multiple sources online where to get inspiration. (e.g. https://www.funretrospectives.com/)
My personal favourites are:
- Three little pig, where you try to describe your team based on a story of three little pigs and their houses (straw, timber, bricks)
- Promised land, where you need to define your wished goal / outcome and afterwards try to define what hinders you and could you possibly overcome these obstacles