During The Retrospective


Setting The Stage#

At the beginning of a retrospective, the facilitator welcomes the team to the retrospective and reminds the team of its purpose, which sets the tone and direction for the session.

It's important to stimulate participation from everyone in the beginning of the retrospective. This encourages the team to feel more comfortable speaking later in the session.

We recommend running a quick icebreaker activity to kick off the retrospective. Some activities that facilitators have found success with include:

Star Rating Star Definition
5 I think we're the best team on the planet! We work great together.
4 I'm glad to be a part of the team and am satisfied with how we work together.
3 I'm fairly satisfied. We work well together most of the time.
2 I have some moments of satisfaction but not enough.
1 I'm unhappy and dissatisfied with our level of teamwork.

Gathering Data#

This is when the facilitator asks the team open-ended questions to gather insights, based on their chosen retrospective style. For example, common guiding questions used by retrospective facilitators may include (but are not limited to):

Since engineering teams may be primarily distributed, the facilitator typically does this using a remote-friendly collaboration tool. An example using Trello is shown below.

Data Gathering Example

For retrospectives with a larger audience, the facilitator can consider sending the Trello board and instructions in advance. This gives team members more time to prepare, reflect, and document thoughts.

Generating Insights#

During this time, the team discusses the topics and data they gathered in the previous phase. If the team identified more topics to discuss than there is sufficient time allocated in the retrospective, use a voting technique to prioritize topics.

For example, using the collaboration tool Trello, here are some ways to conduct voting:

Deciding on Action#

The facilitator's goal is to help the team identify areas of focus and create action items. The team should focus on things that they can improve and have control over while creating their own action items.

When the team is deciding on what action(s) to take, the facilitator can walk the team through these questions:

This phase of the retrospective is also the time to brainstorm solutions and changes to team processes, which may include changes to team working agreements, team explicit policies, or other team process documentation.

Based on the action items decided by the team, the team should also assign owners to the action items themselves to drive accountability.

Remember to document the action items so the team can easily access them and follow up on them in the future. For example, teams can record their action items in their retrospective collaboration tool (e.g. Trello, Confluence). We'll discuss this more in the Following Up On Action Items section.

Closing the Retrospective#

This is the time for the facilitator to formally conclude the retrospective by thanking the team for their time and thoughts, as well as recapping the key topics of discussion and the action items the team has decided to enact.

This time is also perfect for the facilitator to review team members' appreciations for each other.

Timeboxing the Retrospective#

"Timeboxing is allotting a fixed, maximum unit of time for an activity. The goal of timeboxing is to define and limit the amount of time dedicated to an activity."1

The benefits of timeboxing include:

Refer to the best practices for determining the duration of and timeboxing activities within a retrospective.

  1. https://www.scruminc.com/what-is-timeboxing/