Retrospective Planning for a Small Team

27 Apr

I must admit that I have developed a personal infatuation with the retrospective – a process of collectively (as a team) looking back on your team’s progress on a project, with the goal of learning and improving. I quite like the approach of reviewing successes, failures, and lessons learned as an entire team, for a number of reasons:
* it enables shared knowledge
* it can reduce the stigma that often accompanies feedback sessions (as the term “feedback” can often be reminiscent of uncomfortable one-on-one encounters)
* it helps strengthen the team bond (as evidenced in Kerth’s “The Retrospective”)
After having facilitated a retrospective for a “large” group, I liked retrospectives even more for the opportunity to:
* facilitate discussion in a more interesting manner
* choosing from a variety of methods and patterns
* that inspire participation (and maybe even excitement)
* and utilise visual cues:
I can definitely see (and have experienced) the value in retrospectives for medium – large teams. But now I am on a project with a much, much smaller team, mostly co-located, partaking in daily stand ups and with plenty of face to face communication – how can a retrospective help us? What method or style will yield the most benefit?
My answer: I don’t know, but I’m determined to find out.

My Beliefs prior to Retro #1

Individual versus Group
From my point of view, a group retrospective offers two major benefits over individual feedback:
  • Shared learnings/knowledge
  • “Safety in numbers” – team members feel safer in giving and receiving feedback
Visual versus Verbal
I currently prefer visual tools (using written notes) to guide retrospectives, as it offers:
  • guidance for focus
  • opportunity for each person to be “heard” at the same time
Note: I am aware that another major benefit is that written responses may encourage shy team members to offer their voice as well – however, I did not feel that this will be a concern for the current team.
Fun versus Serious
Although games can be used to inspire a team to be excited and strengthen the team bond, I am uncertain of whether this will benefit a small team. On the other hand, a more serious approach may make the team less desirous of retaining the retrospective process.
This point of indecision remains my foremost concern (and hurdle) in planning a retrospective.

Plan for Retro #1

  • Based on my preconceived passion for retrospectives, it should not surprise that I will be hosting a group retrospective, aimed at enhancing collectivism.
  • Although I am more comfortable with the concept of running a fun, energised retrospective, I have my reserves as to whether this will be as beneficial for my team as it will be for me. Because of this, I will strive to create a more serious, reflective environment, by first encouraging self reflection in the following manner: I will ask the team to close their eyes (for a sense of anonymity) and nominate by show of hands (for physical involvement) how they felt the last few iterations have gone. As part of this, I will endeavour to highlight the value of the retrospective directive by disguising it as a short set of questions.
  • I will use a simplistic visual representation similar to that of the speedboat. I am aware that my team is likely to have seen this example before, but I wish to make the retrospective a comfortable/familiar process at this stage.
  • The pattern used will be the “How Did We Do?” Retrospective
Through this, I hope to facilitate a more serious, but still interactive retrospective session. Good luck to me!

2 Responses to “Retrospective Planning for a Small Team”

  1. Olivia May 2, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    Note to self: must also prepare a list of what equipment I need for future retrospectives 🙂


  1. Retrospective Revelations #1 « Olivia Platek - May 7, 2012

    […] recently I ran a retrospective for a small team, with a number of goals in […]

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