We value continuous learning and improvement.
Retrospectives are a chance for teams to reflect on past experiences, celebrate what went well, and identify areas of improvement for the future.
How to facilitate a retrospective
If you are facilitating a retrospective for a project or release, follow these steps.
Create a new Google Doc with an appropriate title (e.g. “3.2 retrospective”) in the Retrospectives folder that is editable by everyone participating in the retrospective. Paste in the following agenda:
Purpose: [SHORT DESCRIPTION OF THE SCOPE AND PURPOSE OF THIS RETROSPECTIVE] Retrospective meeting: [DATE AND TIME] Please submit feedback 24 hours before the retrospective meeting so that everyone can pre-read the feedback. "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." --Norm Kerth, Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Review What feedback or thoughts would you like to share with the team? Here are some things you might want to consider: - [LINK TO RELEVANT PREVIOUS RETROSPECTIVE] - What went well? What did you like? - What didn't go well? What didn't you like? - Did you learn something? - What do you wish you had done differently? Add your feedback by editing this document directly.
Send a Slack message and a calendar invite for the retrospective meeting that includes a link to this document. See engineering milestone retrospectives for more on the feedback to collect for retrospectives of that nature.
If it is getting close to or past the 24 hour feedback deadline, privately remind anyone who has not submitted feedback.
The organizer is responsible for the agenda and flow of the retrospective meeting.
Share your screen which has the retrospective document open and a timer to keep the meeting on track.
Begin by asking one of the participants to read the The Prime Directive out loud.
“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.” –Norm Kerth, Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Review
This is to assure that a retrospective has the right tone to make it a positive and result oriented event. It makes a retrospective become an effective team gathering to learn and find solutions to improve the way of working together.
Review (5 min)
Review the action items from the previous retrospective and discuss the current state. Is it complete? If not, why? Are there any followup actions?
Vote (5 min)
Ask each participant vote on the items that they deem most important. Make sure that participants understand the rules for voting:
- Each person has ten votes (+1s).
- Each person can vote for a topic more than once (e.g. +2, +3).
- Each person must use all of their votes.
Sort (1 min)
After voting is complete, sort the items based on the number of votes each received. This sorted list represents the collective prioritization of what to discuss.
Discuss (~60 min)
The discussion is the main part of any retrospective and where real value is extracted.
This phase lasts for the rest of the scheduled meeting.
Based on the vote distribution, choose which topics are going to be discussed and the time limit for each topic. 10 minutes is a good default. Enforce the time limit! You can always return to a topic at the end if there is extra time, or continue the converation on Slack.
Ensure you ask everyone what their thoughts on each topic are. Everyone is different; some people are loud and very outspoken. Some are quiet and observe more. It’s important to capture everyone’s opinions.
For each topic, if necessary, ensure there’s a written down actionable commitment with an agreed upon owner who will pursue its resolution. Additionally, capture important discussion points for each topic in the shared document.
Engineering milestone retrospectives
For an engineering milestone retrospective, the organizer (often the engineering manager) asks everyone to review the previous milestone tracking issue, the planned work assigned to you, what got done, what didn’t. To facilitate this meeting, use the Start/Stop/Continue format, although its possible to other formats as required.
Ideas that the team should be doing but are not doing, new ideas worth discussing to address current problems.
- A new person has joined team. What project would you suggest he should work on?
- The deadline for project X was removed. What extra features would you add to project X?
- What went well? What did you like?
- What do you wish you had done differently?
Ideas that are not delivering results or task which require a lot of time for little return.
- What would you cut from your workday if you had to leave early for vacation?
- Have you ever noticed an area of your job that consistently gets bumped to the next day or even next month? What is that and why is it so easy to defer until a later date?
- Someone has left our team. What would we have to lose to still meet deadlines?
- What was painful about the milestone? How can we address that pain moving forward?
Ideas that are creating value or we should continue to explore as they are showing positive results.
- What ideas or projects seems to be going in the right direction but need more time?
- Which responsibilities do you personally find most fulfilling?
- What is something that our customer loves us doing?