Ben Linders is an active member of networks on Agile, Lean and Quality, and a frequent speaker and writer. This article is based on the blog post retrospectives in remote Teams published on Ben Linders – Sharing my Experience.
An agile retrospective, or sprint retrospective as Scrum calls it, is a practice used by teams to reflect on their way of working, and to continuously become better in what they do.
When you are working with an agile team where people are not co-located you still want to do valuable agile retrospectives. Gathering everybody in one location for the retrospective is not feasible, a different approach is needed.
The dispersed team questions retrospective exercise is a variant of the questions based retrospective for teams consisting of members working from different locations. This can be team members working from home or working in different offices, countries or even continents.
The team members do not need to come together physically, but they have to find a time slot when they can all join the retrospective. They will do the retrospective remotely using collaboration tools, to reflect on their working pattern and find ideas to improve the way that they work together.
Suitable collaboration tools that teams can use are:
The real-time editor or collaboration tool is used to share questions with the team members and collect their answers and define the improvement actions.
How to do a remote retrospective?
Let us explore how you can do a remote retrospective using a Google Doc with co-editing.
About a week before the retrospective meeting is scheduled the facilitator selects the questions to be used in the retrospective. These questions are entered into the Google Doc and the link is shared with all team members before the retrospective.
The Google Doc is used to gather data. The team member can either add their answers to questions before or during the meeting.
The facilitator will set up a group call, e.g. via Skype or Hangout. If needed then the facilitator will allow time at the start of the meeting to team members time to brainstorm and enter their answers in the document.
When all the answers are added to the document the team can discuss them, build an understanding of the ideas and views of the different team members, and decide which actions are needed. These actions are entered in the same document. The document serves as a report from the retrospective and as an action list, everything is in there where everybody can see it.
Questions for a remote retrospective
Since this retrospective exercise is used by teams which are time and place dispersed there will usually be questions related to working as a remote team, communication using collaboration tools, building relationships while working long distance, etc.
Some sample questions are:
- What do you like about our team and the way that we work together?
- What can we do to improve collaboration, communication and co-working in the team?
- How do you feel about the tools that we are using?
- Do the tools support collaboration sufficiently?
- What have you learned working in this dispersed team?
- If there is one thing that you could change, what would it be?
These questions help dispersed teams to discuss their way of working and find better ways to collaborate and deliver value to their customers.
How to do (remote) retrospectives?
Retrospectives are a great way for teams to improve their way of working, to become agile in an agile way. The whole team attends the retrospective meeting, where they “inspect” how the iteration (sprint) has been done, and decide what and how they want to “adapt” their processes to improve. The actions coming out of a retrospective are communicated and carried out in the next iteration. That makes retrospectives an effective process to do short cycled improvement.
Retrospectives give power to the team since the actions that are agreed in a retrospective are done by the team members themselves. They are one of the success factors for using Scrum and getting benefits. Getting actions out of a retrospective that are doable, and getting them done helps teams to learn and improve continuously.
Do you want to spice up your agile retrospective? Attend one of my workshops on Valuable Agile Retrospectives to learn how to adopt agile retrospectives and become agile. My books with retrospective exercises are available in eBook and paperback.