Scrum Retrospectives can be funny!

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I have been Scrum practitioner several years, during this time I have work on many types of teams that had adopted scrum to a certain degree. It’s common to see the same bad points on teams trying to transition from waterfall to Agile.

– Retrospectives are boring

– The team doesn’t know what they’re doing there, and they can’t care less

– A mantra of What is good, What is bad, what do we do about it (nothing more and nothing less)

– Lack of next actions

I can’t give you a recipe for the best retrospective, but I can tell you how I do it in order to address the issues mentioned above.

How I do retrospectives

I believe that the retrospective it is a great chance not only to talk about the scrum process and issues, but also it’s an opportunity to connect with the team members and have a fresh air to any hidden conflict that your team might have. For this reason I try to make my retrospective to be animated and I involve everyone in the team to speak their minds. I do this by dividing the Retrospective into several sections.

Warm Up

In this phase I usually start talking about what did we deliver as a team on the last sprint. I also explain the objective of the retrospective (to keep learning and improving as a team).

Then I ask the team to put a score to the sprint and to draw their satisfaction over the duration of the sprint in a board. We analyze together where the satisfaction drops or raises and talk about it.

This helps the team to remember about the sprint, open air with some conflicts and set the team in a more collaborative mood.

Games to get insights

There are many exploration games to get insights on what is happening. What game to use will depend on the team and what you want to achieve from case to case. I think the most important here is innovation. Some of the technics that I used in the past are the following:

  • All members write a sentence about the last sprint in a post it, then put it on the board and draw a circle surrounding it. All other team members will then write a x closer or far from the circle to define how aligned they are.
  • All members write a twit about the last sprint. All other team members can re-twit if they like it.
  • Any member can write a cheers for any other people in the team or outside. After they read other members can like the cheers. 

Define the focus of improvement

In this step the team is already in a collaborative mood. They are interacting together and thinking about what things have been discussed so far. I ask the team to list down what are the important areas of improvement. As example could be (stories are not easy to understand, we need to deploy early to staging, developers should follow coding guidelines, …).

After that we to apply a multi-dot voting for this since it will allow to express the degree to what certain area of improvement is important for every team member. After this is complete we already know where we should put our focus of improvement for the next sprint.

Action Items and next actions

First we review the actions taken last week and whether they where successful or not. And we might decide to stop (in the case of a process) or update.

We brainstorm what are the actions that we could take in order to improve the area decided on the previous steps. For instance, in order deploy early to staging what do we need to do?

– Have only tasks with design ready in the sprint

– Invest in a continuous integration system

– Add more developers

– Reduce the scope

– Increase the sprint size

Then the team uses multi-dot voting to select what is improvement that we need to have on the next iteration. 

Usually retrospective notes are public so everyone can see what actions are being taken to improve, what works and what doesn’t.

Last words

Have a positive mindset during the retrospectives. Involve all the team in the decisions. Explore issues and go out of the meeting with possible solutions.

Remember is that every team is different and every retrospective needs to adapt, keep learning from your team and your experience and you will end up having productive and funny retrospective.

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