Retro-Retro

Performing teams sooner or later run into a phase, where the process-enthusiasm somewhat flattens.

When you are lucky, performance is good, so there’s no real problem.

When you’re unlucky, performance is good, so, no one really seems to care.

For me, this seems most obvious in the Retrospectives. Once, Retros feel repetitive and people seem to know what to expect and behavioral patterns emerge, it’s time to face that staleness and do something about it.

I approached this recently (and so far successfully) in two steps.

FIRST: HAVE A TALK WITH EVERY TEAM MEMBER!

Individually, privately and anonymously. Ask them about your ScrumProcess! Are you really doing Scrum? What is Scrum all about? Are we actually embracing change or  are we simply locked in a routine? Especially the Retrospectives? What’s worst there? Let them talk about what they experience as negative. This is a good moment not for Deltas or Appreciation, but for their frustration and weariness. Make notes, so you can act upon their points later!

After some steam has blown off, ask your team members to give the next Retrospective a chance, to be fresh again. Try to point out, why Scrum’s a good thing for every individual in the team. Help them, to find some curiosity again, make them look forward to it! But don’t tell them, that the next Retrospective will be all about Retrospectives.

SECOND: MAKE A RETRO-RETRO!

After the talks – when everything went well – your team members will be openminded again. At least, enough not to dismiss the Retro out of hand. Depending on what you found out in your talks, make this Retrospective something special. Try to incorporate everything you have learned and demonstrate your willingness to incorporate those points.

What these are depends of course on the particular situation. I’ve worked out a Retrospective, that specially focuses on agenda, structure, effectiveness, as those where the topics that stood out most.

So, there are two levels, that seemed important to me. I addressed the individual problems by setting and abiding some rules. E.g. by communicating Timeboxes beforehand, those who always found the Retrospectives as being needlessly long, suddenly had a positive feedback and where now eager to see, if they could rely on the promised limited window.

This level worked pretty good as a basis for the second, more general topic, where I wanted to transport, that, if the team doesn’t appreciate the Retrospectives, we have a team problem. For this, the topic of the Retrospective where the Retrospectives during the last year. This was unexpected, but an obviously consistent continuation of the talks, so everyone was happy with the agenda.

RESULT

The results of your check in will be rather depressing and the results of your data gathering won’t be much fun either. But that’s good, because right there, almost everyone should be interested in finding new ideas on how to improve. So, the negative energy should give people a boost when searching for possible changes. For the results of the insight generation, I had the usual clustering in mind. Then and there, the mood was so positive, that, as we dotted every  proposal – surprise – most of them were accepted.

So, this worked really well as a two step process. I don’t think, this could be accomplished without the individual talks, as they actually laid the groundwork and opened the minds.

For the Retro-Retro itself, my template starts with EVSP as a CheckIn. Then, I expand on the ORID scheme for the main part and close with the RetroDarts. You can download the materials on the Scrum page.

Sources:

[EVSPORIDRetroDarts]