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The retrospective is the improvement engine in the Agile team. It gives the team a structured way to inspect and adapt, making continuous improvements in their processes and ways of working. It is often done once every sprint when working in Scrum, or every second week when working in Kanban. But it could also be held at the end of a bigger project with everyone involved, or once every quarter across all Agile teams and stakeholders depending on what you want to improve. The purpose is to uncover what is working well that you should do more of, and what could be improved next to make the team even better. That is why it is the by far the most important ceremony and should be guarded and never down-prioritized.

In the retrospective, the team focuses on what worked well and what could be improved during the last sprint. There are many different ways to facilitate a retrospective and if you search for “Agile Retrospective” you get more than 2 000 000 results. 

It is traditionally the Scrum Master who is responsible for improving the team’s process and creating a well-functioning and high-performing team, and thereby to facilitate the retrospective. A skilled Scrum Master can pick the right type of retrospective depending on the maturity of the team and whatever issues the team has to deal with at the moment, making sure all voices are heard and facilitating it in a way that enables the team to come up with the improvements and actions needed to make adjustments and experiments in the next sprint.

Usually a retrospective for a 2 week sprint is a 1-2 hour workshop. If you are conducting a big retrospective for many teams or for a longer period of time, you might want to add more time – and also do some more preparations beforehand, but a common sprint retrospective is usually covered in 1-2 hours with no more preparations than for the Scrum Master to plan the facilitation and invite all participants.

The 5 phases of a retrospective

Retrospectives are usually built up by five phases, with different flavors of facilitation:

  1. Setting the stage
  2. Collecting and mapping data
  3. Prioritization 
  4. Ideating and coming up with what actions to take
  5. Closing the retrospective

Make sure to make space for the improvement work in the team’s daily work

The actions from the sprint should be taken, or started, during the next sprint. And it is up to the team to decide who will do what, just like any other task on the sprint board, it is not the Scrum Master’s job to implement the improvements. 

The best way to make this happen is usually to put each action in a story and to put it up on the Scrum or Kanban board along with the rest of the work- these are improvement stories that should be in every sprint. If some of the problems are impossible for the team to solve by themselves, the action should be brought to someone who can help. Some teams have a so-called “Scrum of Scrum” where all Scrum Masters meet up regularly to share their improvement areas and the actions that they need support with, or you could use a “Management Action Door”, where all teams put up actions that they need help with and meet up with people who can help on a regular basis to make it happen. You can probably figure out more ways to make it happen, what is important is that the environment for the team can be improved also with support from outside their own possible mandates and capabilities.

Tip:

If your team has a working agreement you ask them to bring it to the retrospectives, to reflect on how well they are following it and if it is helping the team to work well together. If your team doesn’t have one, spend 15-20 minutes on your first retrospective to create it.

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We are exposed to an incredible number of impressions in one day. We are met by advertising on the way to work, pictures on instagrams and ads on facebook, emails about fantastic offers and news from all over the world. At work, we are often met by policies, attitudes, expectations of others and performance reviews. Not being able to sort in this and finding your own meaning and purpose can create stress, uncertainty and a feeling of being overwhelmed. The importance of being able to lead yourself, and others, to create a sustainable lifestyle has never been as big as now.

 

Your values ​​and your why

I see the personal leadership as something that needs to grow when you find your own values ​​and purpose. “Start with why” was founded by Simon Sinek, he says that organizations need to start by establishing why they exist before they can start talking about how and what they do. It is fully applicable to the personal leadership as well,  you need to find your own “WHY” before you know what to do and how.

To find your own WHY, you first need to know your values. What is most important to me? You can do this by listening inwards, by turning off all impressions and expectations from the outside world. To ignore the template that society is trying to put us all into and listen to yourself. There is much talk about meditation and that it is the only way to listen inward, but I think that when you do something that you love, whether it is to meditate, yoga, paint, walk your dog, ride or run, it is your opportunity to hear your inner voice . The one who says what you really like and value. The key is to listen and above all to trust what that voice is saying. Trust yourself, that you know best what is right for you.

Based on your values, the why is easier to find. My WHY statement is:
“I empower myself and the people around me so we can become the best people that we can be”.

Exercise WHY statement

To write your WHY statement, follow these guidelines:

  • Simple and clear
  • Only one sentence
  • Language you use yourself
  • Work both at work and in private
  • Write several until you find the right one

Safety and learning

To feel that your purpose is being fulfilled and developed, our sense of security and learning is important. The human instincts are the same today as they were in the stone-age and our brain is divided into three motivational systems. The model created by Paul Gilbert consists of the red threat system, the blue drive system and the green soothing system.

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The challenge

How do I do a retrospective that feels like a live meeting though we are distributed?

I have recently started working with a new team. We are distributed in two locations with a 7-hour time difference. We have not met in person (yet). We use slack for our daily communication, using it both for text communication and audio calls. In the retrospectives we always use video since it’s so much better to get the feeling of being closer to each other.

My team had a history of using the 4L retrospective technique every sprint for a long time. They used slack video call and confluence for documentation during the meeting.

I wanted to do something different, and I wanted the retro to be as much like a live meeting as possible.

The solution

I read about the Speedboat retro and really wanted to try it, but I was not sure how I could make it work with the team being distributed.

I had a vision of us using an online sticky tool and putting our stickies on the picture of the pirate ship.

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The online version that you can run in Google Drive via Google Slide.

The speedboat format for retrospectives is something I like a lot and have used with teams or even whole organizations (divided into teams). I find it to be a good way for the team to think individually, and then collaborate and define solutions for their problems through visualization. Visualization helps the team to more easily figure out what problems they should solve them selves, and what problems needs to be solved through collaboration between the teams, and what they need to ask management to help with. Some Agile coaches or Scrum Masters only highlight the negative on retrospectives, I believe it is a great thing to focus on the positive and also help the team take action more easily on real issues. It´s the teams responsibility to handle issues within the team, the Agile Coach/Scrum Masters job is to give them the capabilities to do that (not to do it for them).

Download the speedboat retrospective poster in high resolution (PDF) here >

Download the speedboat retrospective Power Point here (instructions and online retro space)>

Free Mural template for this workshop >speedboat retrospective

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