A thermostat from a radiator.

TL;DR; Your retros will be more productive if you do them right. Read Agile retrospectives, making good teams great and/or get someone who facilitates your retrospective.

Retrospectives are fundamental to a successful team. With continuous improvement we can go wherever we want. But there are meetings, labeled retrospectives, that just don’t cut it. So when someone says “we did retros, but it did not work for us” I get really suspicious. If you don’t think your team need retros, did you try a good retrospective?

A good retrospective gathers input from everyone

Some people think by talking (and gesturing). That can not be done with everyone listening. Others need to gather their own thoughts in quiet. So a good retrospective has a structure that enables everyone to contribute, without taking forever.

A good retrospective brings out new thoughts

If what you do could have been replaced with a newsletter, a suggestion box and a poll, it is not a retrospective. The different parts of a retro are combined to do data transformation. Each step then pulls new input from the participants. The result is one thought built on another, forming collective insights.

A good retrospective demands full focus

No multitasking or daydreaming. Check in, making sure we are all present. Then facilitate so that everyone feels how their time is valued. That creates focus.

A good retrospective set priorities

One experiment at the time. If everything is important, nothing is important. Make sure that everyone feels heard. Have a fair process for picking the next experiment. That creates commitment.

A good retrospective is fun and engaging

We work best when in a good mood. Creativity and collaboration sometimes need a push. The retro should be a treat, not a chore.

A good retrospective gets better

Retrospectives also need to improve and change. Sometimes we end up just going through the motions when something gets too familiar. So a good retrospective also gathers data on the retro itself, and changes to always serve the team the best.

A good retrospective gets better with a great team

“We are too good to need retrospectives” is the same as “I am too fit to work out.” Teams that struggle have a lot to win from a retrospective, since you often can find high-impact experiments to try. But teams that work smoothly, will be able to use the retrospective to gain even more momentum.

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