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Running Agile Retrospectives

An Agile retrospective (retro) is a session that's held at the end of an iteration in Agile software development. During the retrospective, the team reflects on what happened in the iteration and identifies actions for improvement going forward. It is important to focus on both what worked well and what didn’t. The review focuses on the product and the optimising of the product value. In contrast, the sprint retrospective focuses on the process and everything involved; for example, the people, processes and tools.
An Agile retrospective (retro) is a session that’s held at the end of an iteration in Agile software development. During the retrospective, the team reflects on what happened in the iteration and identifies actions for improvement going forward.
It is important to focus on both what worked well and what didn’t. The review focuses on the product and the optimising of the product value. In contrast, the sprint retrospective focuses on the process and everything involved; for example, the people, processes and tools.

Retrospective Objectives

Retrospective centres on three key elements: identifying what went well, discussing what didn’t go so well, and identifying the actions that will be carried forward into the next sprint. Scrum is all about being iterative. Therefore, a key component is a reflection so that the team can fail fast and move on and learn from it. Reflecting through the retrospective is a key component of this.

Agile Rituals

Agile rituals are designed to help you maintain momentum. For example:

  • Backlog refinement helps the team stay focussed on the right priorities and the end goal.
  • Daily stand-ups help the team stay aware of each other’s activity.
  • Retrospectives help the team to reflect and improve their operation.

These rituals are designed to help the team maintain momentum and morale. They will play a critical role in ensuring the team doesn’t burn out or get lost and confused. However, not all rituals will work for all teams. The importance of Agile is to keep it flexible and to strive towards continuous improvement.

What is the Role of the Facilitator?

The word facilitator comes from the Latin word ‘faci’, which means to ‘make easy’. The role of the facilitator is to make the retrospective an easy process by moderating the discussion and help the team follow the rules.

Some basic guidelines for a facilitator are as follows:

  • They need to be unbiased/impartial towards the project and team members.
  • They focus on key topics and ensure that enough time is given for people to voice opinions.
  • They capture the outputs and ensure the actions decided are followed through.

Tools For In-Person Retrospectives

The tools you employ can help facilitate discussion and enforce rules. For in-person retrospectives, you can make use of the following:

  • Meeting spaces: whiteboard, poster boards, paper, stationery, and sticky notes to dot down ideas, suggestions, and solutions. This will ensure that everybody takes part.
  • Timer: keep to a timebox to ensure that every team member’s opinions are valued and discussions are kept constructive.

Tools for Virtual Retrospectives

Virtual retrospectives are becoming more popular. For remote teams, you can make use of the following:

  • Video conferencing with screen share, polls, smaller teams to discuss pressing questions, and so forth.
  • Digital collaboration tools such as Confluence, Jira, and Trello.
Tips: 

Keep the following tips in mind:

* Recordkeeping and open communication are of cardinal importance during a retrospective. 

* Team members need to take ownership of the retrospective.

* Remember to pay special attention to achievements, team members who went the extra mile, and inspire the team. 

* Retrospective can be a fabulous team-building exercise. 

Over to you:

Have you been to a meeting or workshop that was facilitated? Think back and identify three positive and three negative aspects that you experienced.
Also:
  • do you think you would be able to act as a facilitator?
  • Are you a one-on-one facilitator or a group facilitator?
  • What valuable lessons have you learned in virtual meetings?
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Introduction to Agile Project Management

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