What makes a good Retrospective?
The retrospective is the most critical event for teams. This is the time for the team to step back to inspect and adapt their process and how they are working together. It's a dedicated time to analyze and determine an action they can take forward to improve for the next iteration/sprint. The retrospective meeting enforces continual improvement that is a necessity all agile teams.
The retrospective should vary every time. Team members need to be engaged in various formats so that the information needed will come out in the analysis discussion. Retrospectives also build teams as the activities within double as team building activities. Teams should have fun in this meeting but also be open and honest to all feedback. Food is always a plus, too, as teams like to unwind and reflect on the last iteration/sprint on a full stomach.
Retrospectives are timeboxed meetings. For a month long iteration/sprint, the timebox is 3 hours for a retrospective. For a two week iteration/sprint, the timebox is 1.5 hours for a retrospective. Retrospectives are also confidential to the team so no one participates other than the Scrum Master, Product Owner and Team Members.
Every retrospective should be comprised of the following elements (but the activity elements should change every time) and follow an agenda that is timeboxed:
Sets the tone for the retro and reminds the team the retros is a safe space: ‘Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.’
Set the stage activity…
Set the stage – get everyone speaking: Short activity to get everyone speaking (voluntarily) and focused on the meeting
Review Action Items from last time
Will any be carried over or can they all be crossed off? Ideally all actions should be done.
Gather Data Activity
Use a different method/activity each retro to elicit information from the team in different ways. (What worked/what didn't work, Drop/Add/Keep/Improve, Start/Stop/Continue, etc.)
After the data is collected, figure out what it means! Establish patterns, trends, and discuss. (use groupings or create themes to establish trends)
Determine Action Items
After establishing trends, patterns, and identifying problems, are there actions you can take to avoid repeating the problems in the future? Focus on 1-2 items and make sure there is a process for follow through. (dot voting can be really helpful to determine action items)
Wrap the retrospective up with short reflection on what happened and then closing activity such as team appreciations, thumbs up/down on retro activity, one hope for next sprint, etc.