Retrospective Revelations #1

7 May

So recently I ran a retrospective for a small team, with a number of goals in mind:

  • to facilitate collective learning and knowledge sharing for the team
  • to improve my own knowledge of retrospectives
  • to determine which approach is best for a smaller team

So the question is, did I achieve these goals? Well, yes and no. I was able to facilitate the experience for my team, and judging by the list of actions, that resulted in collective learning. Yet I feel like I’ve taken a step back in the basics of retrospectives. I became rather engrossed in the overview of my plan – determining how each phase fit together, aiming for a smooth flow – that I forget some of the basics. Below are my own learnings from this recent experience.

What I endeavour to change next time

  • Create a list of materials to be prepared beforehand. Just listing “sticky notes” isn’t really enough
    …Whilst I was aware that I wanted a whiteboard (check), post it notes (check) and writing materials (check), I want my list of materials to accommodate colour coding (of sticky notes, pens, etc)
  • Anticipate a method of grouping ideas/notes
  • Remember to time box the retrospective to a certain work period (i.e. last two months)
  • I didn’t do a safety check
    …I know it’s a common practice, but I wanted to how it would impact me as the facilitator to not know how comfortable each person is. I admit it did in turn make me more concerned about whether or not to prompt individuals to speak out, and have since been advised that the safety check is definitely useful for larger teams particularly with new joinees. I’ve taken a note of this, but on the whole feel that the safety check is not just about ensuring the team members are comfortable, it makes the facilitator more comfortable too, so I will keep
  • Facilitate for geographically distanced team members
    …This is something I was quite stumped on. I’m aware of some methods of running a retrospective for non co-located teams, but feel that there is something quite awkward in the overall process, as it risks introducing an “us versus them” mentality for local subsections of the team. But now, with thanks to my awesome coworkers, I am aware of this really cool tool which I anticipate to use for the next retrospective – help me try it out by giving me feedback on my blog.

What I’m still pondering

  • Presenting the “prime directive” whilst the team had closed eyes
    …I’m not certain it was delivered well, I think that I had not prepared questions with enough flow – it did promote a more sombre attitude for the retrospective, but I am keen to try this again before evaluating further
  • The need for ground rules
    …The only ground rule I set was focused on “not pointing out blame” – I feel this was okay, but I wonder if other rules are essential?

All in all, my key take away from this experience is to pay more attention to the details, and not stress so much about the overall flow.
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