Retrospective Techniques for Anyone Who Wants to Improve

Elyse PlattThu, 08/15/2019 - 11:30

In Scrum, there is a Sprint Retrospective. However, if you don’t work within the Scrum framework, you may want to still inspect-and-adapt to continuously improve your interactions, processes, and tools. In this article, I will cover simple Retrospective techniques that anyone can try.

  • Liberating Structures
  • Fun, Creative Techniques
    • Extra! Extra! Read all about….
      • Each person on the team becomes a reporter for the session and creates a catchy headline for the past Sprint (or any cadence or measure of time appropriate to your environment). Discuss common themes among all headlines developed and establish measurable action items based on the conversation.
      • Side note: I also use the “Extra! Extra! Read all about…” format to coach teams create Sprint Goals. If your team is struggling with Sprint Goals, try to have them think of a goal like a newspaper headline.
    • Apples-to-Apples (Like-to-Like)
      • Using index cards, create a deck of adjective cards. Have participants each create 8+ noun cards related to something in the past Sprint. Play a game of Apples-to-Apples using this customized deck, while also having conversations on impactful subject matter.
    • Captions
      • A game of telephone using index cards. First person draws something noteworthy about the past Sprint and passes it to the second person. Next in line interprets the drawing and writes down their interpretation on a new index card to pass to the third person. Third person draws his/her interpretation and passes that to the next person and so on. Draw (picture only) – Write (words only) – Draw (picture only) – … This will produce laughter and diffuse any tension or hesitation toward the session. 
    • LEGO Retro
      • Break into teams of 3-5. Use LEGO bricks to create something representative of the past Sprint. Other team(s) try to decipher the other creations and whole group discussion ensues. 
    • Back to the Future
      • Imagine Doc Brown took you to the future in which your team experienced the perfect Sprint. Describe - How did it feel? What happened? Who was there? Try to get a full picture of every aspect in terms of interactions, people, processes, and tools. Then, travel back to current time and discusses what small, attainable steps can be taken to make progress toward that future state.
  • Keeping it Simple
    • IdeaBoardz
      • This online, remote-attendee-friendly board gives options for different formats and you can stick to the traditional style or completely create your own. In the same fashion, Trello can be used, if you prefer.
    • Retromat
      • Retromat will randomly generate activities for you (or you can build your own).

I also recommend getting your team talking about achievements and acknowledgement of peers. When it comes to continuous improvement, failures, misses, and challenges tend to be the focus because that’s where the opportunity exists. However, maintaining team morale and encouragement through creating a safe, open, and fun environment is equally important. People will want to continue to participate if they feel heard and follow-through on action items.