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Things That You Need to Know Before Starting a Retrospective

a woman sticking post its on the wall.

We all know that a retrospective is an integral part of any project. It allows us to take a step back, assess what went well and didn’t, and identify areas for improvement. But often, we can find ourselves feeling a bit lost when it comes to conducting a retrospective. What should we cover? How can we get the most out of it? The answer to these questions may vary depending on the situation, but there are some key things to keep in mind that will help ensure your retrospective is productive and valuable. This article will cover the most important things before starting your next retrospective.

Define The Purpose Of The Retrospective

The first and arguably most important step is to define the purpose of the retrospective. What do you hope to achieve? What specific topics do you want to address? Without a clear purpose, it will be difficult to focus the discussion and make the retrospective productive. The team, the Scrum Master, or even the product owner can define the purpose. It should be something that everyone agrees on and is committed to. Though,  it is not uncommon for the retrospective to be open-ended and for the team to discover its purpose as the discussion unfolds. The important thing is that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goal.

Plan Retrospective Games

Whether it’s your first time leading a retrospective or looking for ways to break the ice and get everyone thinking creatively, planning games can be a helpful way to do this. Brainstorming a few fun activities beforehand will help ensure that your retrospective is engaging and productive. Some popular retrospective games involve dot voting, sentence completion, and role-playing. The key is to tailor the games to your team’s needs and what you hope to accomplish during the retrospective. Debriefing after each game is important to ensure that everyone understands the objectives and what was learned. This will help the team to get the most out of the retrospective. Though, as with anything, be sure to keep things light and avoid putting too much pressure on anyone during the games.

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Prepare The Right Environment

Another step is to prepare the right environment. This means creating an atmosphere that is conducive to honest and open communication. It might mean setting some ground rules, such as no judgment or finger-pointing, or it could simply mean making sure the space is comfortable, and everyone has what they need. The important thing is that everyone feels safe sharing their thoughts and experiences. The right environment will help the team to be more open and honest with each other, which is essential for a productive retrospective. Though,  it’s not just the environment that’s important; the team’s mindset is just as vital.

Choose Your Scrum Master Wisely

The scrum master is responsible for facilitating the retrospective, so choosing someone good at leading discussions and keeping the team on track is essential. It’s also crucial to select someone impartial and objective. The scrum master should not be the same person every time, which can lead to bias. It can be helpful to have the same scrum master for two or three retrospectives in a row so they can get to know the team better. However, after that, it’s good to rotate the role. Many times, the scrum master is also the product owner. Still, it’s essential to have someone else fill that role during retrospectives so the product owner can participate fully in the discussion.

Keep The Format Consistent

Every retrospective should have the same format. This will make it easier for you to compare retrospectives and see what’s working and what’s not. It will also make it easier for team members to participate. If you keep changing the format, people will get frustrated and won’t want to participate. It’s also essential to keep the format simple. You don’t want people to get overwhelmed and not know where to start. The format should be something you can complete in an hour or less. This way, you can keep the meetings focused and productive.

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Create an Agenda

Creating an agenda beforehand is crucial if you want your retrospective to be successful. This will help keep everyone on track and ensure that all the topics you want to discuss are covered. Consider starting with an icebreaker to help everyone get comfortable sharing their thoughts. It can be as simple as going around the room and sharing one thing they’re grateful for or one thing they struggled with that week. Many people find it helpful to use a retro template to guide their discussion.

Timebox Your Discussion

Another vital element of a successful retrospective is timeboxing. This means setting a specific time for each topic on your agenda. This will help keep the conversation focused and ensure you don’t run out of time before you’ve covered everything.

Some teams like to have their retrospective at the beginning of the sprint, while others prefer to wait until the end. There is no right or wrong answer here; it just depends on what works best for your team.

Create A Feedback Loop

At the end of every sprint, take time to sit down as a team and reflect on what went well and what could be improved. This is called a retrospective. The primary purpose of a retrospective is to create a feedback loop so that the team can learn from their past experiences and continuously improve. It is important to remember that a retrospective is not about pointing fingers or placing blame but rather about finding ways to do things better in the future.

In conclusion, a few key things should be kept in mind before starting a retrospective. First, it is important to have a clear goal or objective for the retrospective. Second, it is useful to gather data beforehand in order to make the most of the retrospective. Finally, creating a safe and respectful environment in which everyone can openly share their thoughts and feelings is important. Additionally,  it can be helpful to use a facilitation guide or template to structure the retrospective. Keeping these things in mind ensures that your retrospective is productive and beneficial for everyone involved.

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