6 Tips for Implementing an Effective Agile Retrospective

Eugene LaiMon, 09/14/2020 - 09:36

Most teams that are new to Agile struggle to get value out of the Retrospective primarily due to poor facilitation. However, many of the required skills, while sometimes able to be learned in a formal training, are more often gained by experience.

In this post, we’ll discuss a few tips that you may want to consider before initiating a Retrospective.

6 Tips for an Effective Retrospective

Tip #1 – Prepare the team in advance

Ensuring the team understands the concepts behind a Retrospective is an important step to take, and most teams don’t seem to do this very well. Educating them on the objectives and the process flow can significantly impact the experience, as well as the outcome.

Tip #2 – Start simple and build on small wins

There is a huge inventory of Retrospective formats that are used by teams around the world today. However, if a team is relatively new to Agile, it is often beneficial to start simple to establish a rhythm for the team. Basic formats such as the 4 L’s or Starfish are usually great starting points that will provide just enough structure to guide the conversation. New teams will likely struggle at first, but this is expected.

Tip #3 – Keep things fresh!

Even the most experienced and accomplished Agile teams begin to plateau at some point, and struggle to find ways to improve their performance and output. It is the Scrum Master’s responsibility to help the team to always seek for improvements by looking at their processes and tools in a different light. This can only be achieved if the Scrum Master can continuously challenge the team through a variety of Retrospective techniques that will motivate the team to keep building on their successes.

Tip #4 – Keep it interactive!

Most Agile teams are used to sitting at their desk for the majority of the day, and the thought of sitting in a conference room or on another call will probably not inspire much excitement or creative thinking. Hence, it is extremely important for Agile teams to find more collaborative ways to investigate their recent accomplishments and look for things to improve upon. The use of games, visuals, and physical objects are all valid techniques that will help the team stay engaged.

Tip #5 – Don’t try to solve every problem

It is natural for a team of professionals to try to solve problems because that is what they are expected to do. However, the timing and approach are important factors to consider when faced with a challenging issue. When the team identifies a problem that is worthy of further assessment, most teams have a tendency to try to fix the issue immediately, which may not be the best plan of attack. Quite often, additional investigation is necessary before action can be taken to address the true root cause of the problem. Techniques such as Root Cause Analysis (RCA) or the Fishbone diagram (a.k.a. Ishikawa Diagram) are popular techniques that help teams reveal the true problem before investing time and energy to address it.

Tip #6 – Don’t leave the meeting without at least one action!

After having an in-depth discussion, the team can close the loop by coming to an agreement on what improvement action to take for a future iteration. The Scrum Master should not dictate or decide for the team, but help the team reach consensus and make a commitment to improve.

In conclusion, the Agile Retrospective is a powerful and often under-utilized tool that all Agile teams need to leverage in order to establish a sustainable learning mindset. This tool is easy to use but difficult to master. We hope these tips help your team successfully implement the Retrospective and reap the benefits.

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