Retrospectives, when run effectively, are an invaluable tool for an agile team. However, these meetings can get stale and tiring if you have one every ten days or if you’re on the same project for multiple years. Keeping your team engaged is key for gathering feedback that you can use to improve moving forward. Here are 5 tips that I have found helpful for keeping my retrospectives engaging.
1. Make it fun
I have led way too many retros where I have felt like Mr. Lorensax at the front of the classroom saying “Bueller…? Bueller…?” and waiting for anyone to speak. I quickly realized that asking “What worked in this sprint?” and then waiting for the team to speak up simply does not work. It needs to be fun. Using an online collaboration tool like Mural that lets the team add colorful stickies, emojis, and images keeps it fun and allows the team to express themselves non-verbally. One of my favorite prompts is “Use an emoji, image, or gif to describe how this sprint went for you.”
2. Make it anonymous
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I am a huge fan of anonymous feedback. Yes, we are all professionals, we are all adults, and we should be able to give and receive honest feedback. However, we are also human and many team members are introverts. Not everyone may feel comfortable giving honest feedback in an open team setting such as a retrospective call and pushing someone out of their comfort zone could make you lose out on meaningful, honest feedback. Allowing anonymous feedback leads me into my next tip…
3. Gather feedback ahead of time
Create your feedback page and send it to your team to populate several days ahead of your retrospective meeting. This allows your team to contemplate over a few days rather than be put on the spot when they may forget what they wanted to say. This enables you to gather all feedback anonymously and allow those who would like to speak up to do so. Letting the team view the page ahead of time also enables team members to “vote” on feedback submitted by others ahead of the meeting. This reduces duplicate feedback, gives a visual idea of consensus, and enables team members other than the one who submitted the feedback to speak about it.
4. Make the purpose clear
If your team has been using agile for a while, they have likely been through quite a few retrospectives. Start the meeting by communicating the purpose and the goals so the team has a renewed energy and reminder of why they should participate. Encourage honesty, respect, and praise. Retrospectives are a great opportunity for you to stop and celebrate wins throughout the project and bolster the team’s positivity.
5. Follow through!
Following through on the retrospective feedback is crucial. Retrospectives will become much less meaningful to people over time if they don’t trust that their suggestions will be implemented. After the meeting, organize the feedback into key themes to track how those themes change throughout the project. Turn negative feedback into constructive action items that have an assignee and a due date to keep your team accountable.
Retrospectives are a critical piece of the agile development process. If you find your retrospectives getting tired and predictable, try using some of these tips to refresh your meetings to make them as valuable as possible for your team.