Team Retrospectives

You've probably heard of Agile and Scrum and how they're the best way to manage teams. This article is about a Scrum artifact that in isolation can create impact on how your team performs and how engaged they feel.


Scrum teams 'inspect' themselves during an event called a 'retrospective'. A retrospective takes place every two weeks on average and the team gets together to discuss how they might improve their way of working. To be clear, the team isn't discussing their projects but they're discussing 'how' they work on these projects.


Team retrospectives usually use a framework, the most basic one is 'start, stop, continue'. This retrospective could be conducted on a virtual or physical board or document and each team member will share an opinion on what the team should 'start' doing, 'stop' doing and 'continue' doing. The team members will discuss each item and then pick one item that they will focus on for the two weeks before their next retrospective.


Let's take an example, one of my teams was conducting user research and building a new website with a partner to launch their consumer goods products in a new market. There were two individuals responsible for user research and they were quite busy and traveling regularly. The other two individuals were responsible for liaising with the marketing team to build ads for the new website. During their retrospective, one of the team members who is focused on advertising asked the other two team members to start sharing the output of their user research on a more regular basis. Now this might sound like it's related to content vs. how the team works but when we dug into the request, this team member felt excluded from user research which is something that is very important to her. She was the only team member with advertising experience which is why she took on the responsibility of creating ads but she wanted to be more involved in the user research to maintain her energy on the project. The team agreed to prioritize sharing learnings between all 4 of them in the next two weeks and set up a 1 hour weekly sharing session where they could all delve into the content together.


Sometimes team members will ask that the team stop something e.g. going off on tangents during team meetings, stop scheduling meetings on Wednesdays so they can have a meeting free day or that they continue something e.g. spending time casually together as a team.


The goal of a framework is to structure the retrospective and make it safe to share what each team member is feeling about how the team works together.


Other examples of frameworks are

- Mad, Sad, Glad

- Liked, Learned, Lacked, Longed for

- Wind (helped us move forward), Rocks (risks ahead), Sun (made us feel good), Anchor (held us back)


Some tips for your first retrospective 1. Ask the team to think through the categories in advance 2. Create psychological safety to start sharing 3. Accept all input without judgement 4. Pick one item to act on and ensure there is action take toward that item 5. Make sure the positive gets as much credit as the opportunities to improve 6. Don't get pulled into content!