7 reasons to change how you start your Retro
A lot of places start Retrospectives with an open forum. Putting on their compassionate voice the PM or ScrumMaster does their best impression of a camp guidance counsellor:
So team, what’s gone well this sprint and where could we improve?
This is followed by either a void of silence and shuffling feet or a stream of consciousness erupting from that person that’s been suppressing their anger over the last few weeks. After a few hours of complaining and arguing and blaming, people eventually call it a day, exhausted and no further along than they were when they started.
I think there’s a better way
At the start of your sprint create a holding area for issues that come up and document them. You could continue it from the previous sprint or have a separate one each sprint. This is your agenda for the Retro. Anyone can add an issue and there’s still time to cover things not raised there, but this is your starting point.
- By capturing the item when it happens you are less likely to forget it and more likely to capture critical details. Context is super important in actually resolving these issues, so push to get that up front.
- By providing a home for retro items ahead of time you make it easier for people to put aside issues as they happen, confident they can raise them in retro.
- When you ask a question you get an answer. This means that people often raise things they don’t feel very strongly about when they feel they need to contribute something. This can lead to interesting discussion, but it often ends up with people becoming entrenched in positions they don’t really feel passionate about.
- When things are brought up on the spur of the moment, people’s thoughts aren’t as structured. This means we waste time trying to pin down what they mean or explain themselves. Preparing ahead of time makes this faster so that we’re able to move on to creating actionable solutions.
- The current format has time for on-the-spot venting or discussion. Retros are a valuable space to get things off your chest and reset. We want to get this balance right.
- One advantage of using a more ‘blank canvas’ approach is that it can make it easier for everyone to have a voice. For some people having additional time to prepare can do this too. Beyond this we’ll all work to encourage everyone to speak up and adapt if that’s not happening.
- Because what you’re currently doing probably isn’t providing much value – so why not try it?