How to Run a Successful Retrospective: Tips From the Experts

agile retrospective

Written By Andrew Makar

Professional Cat Herder and an Agile Enthusiast with a keen interest in putting PM theory into actual practice.

If you are looking to improve your team’s productivity and workflow, you should consider running regular retrospectives. Retrospectives are meetings where team members come together to reflect on their past work and identify ways they can improve going forward. This blog post will discuss tips for running a successful retrospective meeting. It will also provide advice from the experts on how to make the most of this valuable team-building exercise.

Start with an ice breaker

It can be pretty challenging to make everyone comfortable discussing sensitive topics like what went wrong and what could be improved. So, the first part of your meeting should be breaking the ice with a fun activity. This way, everyone will feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas in the meeting. This can be as simple as going around the room and having everyone share one thing they enjoyed about the past sprint or project. Even if you are hosting a virtual meeting, there are many kinds of zoom ice breakers that you can choose from. Starting on a positive note will help create an open and positive environment for the rest of the retrospective.

Then, move on to discussing what went well

After you’ve broken the ice, it’s time to start talking about what went well during the past sprint or project. This is an integral part of the retrospective because it helps team members to identify their strengths and areas of success. You can start by asking everyone to share one thing that went well for them. Then, you can go around the room and have each team member share their thoughts. Alternatively, you could ask everyone to write their thoughts on a piece of paper or in a Google Doc and then compile a list of the team’s successes. This is a great way to identify patterns and areas where the team excels.

Next, discuss what could be improved

After you’ve discussed what went well, it’s time to move on to what could be improved, which is often the most challenging part of the retrospective, but it’s also the most important. By going through this phase, you can help your team to work more efficiently and effectively in the future. As with discussing what went well, you can start by asking everyone to share one thing they think could be improved. Alternatively, you can try to identify common themes that came up during the discussion of what went well. For example, if several team members mentioned that they had difficulty communicating with other team members, you could discuss ways to improve communication within the team.

Brainstorm solutions and action items

Once you’ve identified areas for improvement, it’s time to brainstorm solutions. In this part of the meeting, the team comes together to identify practical ways to address the raised issues. It can be helpful to start by asking each team member to share one solution for each problem. Then, you can compile a list of all the proposed solutions and vote on the ones that seem most feasible. For example, if the team is having difficulty communicating, you could vote on solutions like setting up regular check-in meetings or using a communication tool like Slack.

Once you’ve identified the most promising solutions, it’s time to turn them into action items. Action items are specific tasks that must be completed to implement the proposed solutions. For each solution, you should identify who is responsible for completing the task and when it should be completed. For example, if you’ve decided to set up regular check-in meetings, you might assign someone to schedule the meetings and send out reminders. On the other hand, if you use a communication tool like Slack, you might assign someone to set up the channel and invite all the team members.

Wrap up the retrospective

Once you’ve brainstormed solutions and created action items, it’s time to wrap up the retrospective. This is where you’ll summarize what was discussed and identify any next steps. For example, you might announce when the next check-in meeting will be or when the Slack channel will be set up. You should also thank everyone for their participation and feedback. More often than not, this part of the retrospective will be upbeat, as it’s an excellent opportunity to reflect on the team’s accomplishments. It can also be helpful to encourage team members to take the action items they’re responsible for and turn them into concrete goals.

Don’t forget to follow up

Once the retrospective is over, you must follow up with your team. This means sending a summary of the meeting and any action items created. It’s also a good idea to check in with your team periodically to see how they’re doing with implementing the proposed solutions. For example, if you created an action item to set up a regular check-in meeting, you might follow up after the first few meetings to see how they’re going. By following up with your team, you can help to ensure that the retrospective is effective in helping to improve your team’s performance.

Bonus tip: Use the correct format

Holding a retrospective meeting can be helpful, but only if done correctly. One key element of a successful retro is the format. Several different formats can be used, but the most important thing is to choose one that will work for your team. If you’re unsure what format to use, try asking your team members for their thoughts or doing research online. One popular format is the “start, stop, continue” format, which involves discussing what the team should start, stop, and continue doing.
Another popular format is the “fishbone” or “cause and effect” diagram. This involves brainstorming all the possible causes of a problem and then identifying the root cause. Upon identifying the root cause, you can brainstorm solutions to address it. Finally, the “gathering data” format involves collecting data about the team’s performance over time and then using that data to identify areas for improvement. This is often done by tracking cycle time, throughput, or defect rate. The format you choose will depend on your team’s needs, so be sure to choose one that will be most effective for you.

team retrospective

If you follow these tips, you’ll be well on running a successful retrospective. And, who knows? Maybe your team will even start to look forward to them. After all, retrospectives are an excellent opportunity for team members to bond and learn from each other. So, why not make the most of them?

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