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Effective Retrospectives in the Age of Coronavirus

Agile Alliance and Retrium are holding a series of webinars titled Suddenly Distributed. This was the first one I joined, and I highly recommend watching it. A recap and recording of this webinar can be found here:

Agile retrospective experts David Horowitz, Diana Larsen, Esther Derby, Molood Ceccarelli, Paul Tevis, Jay-Allen Morris, and Kirsten Clacey gathered to share their insights on how to achieve effective retrospectives amidst a sudden shift to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m a huge fan of Esther and Diana, the authors of Agile Retrospectives, and of Jay and Kirsten, the Remote Coaches. I was really excited to spend an hour learning from them and the rest of the panel of retrospective experts.

It was really an insightful session and the hour just flew by. Here are my top take aways:

  • Try to gather quantitative data ahead of time then share before the retro, this is a form of asynchronous collaboration
  • Make it visual, people need to see whats being done
  • Create space for silent reading
  • A remote retrospective takes a lot of preparation, at least as much time as the retro, probably twice as much
  • Design for equal participation. There is nothing worse than most people in a room together and 1 person dialling in remotely. It is much better for everyone to dial in remotely. Also measure participation – write down the names of each person in the session then add a line next to their name every time they speak. This way you can create opportunities for people to add their voice if they’ve been quiet.
  • Consider psychological safety in your retros, you could ask – What is one thing we could do to make this safer? Speaking about safety actually raises the level of safety
  • Avoid using too many tools and give a quick intro to the tool as it may be new for some
  • Encourage follow through, the intention of a retro is to improve something. The team must own it, it is real work. It is helpful to do the smallest possible thing.

I couldn’t shorten my list of top take aways. Everything discussed was really valuable, not often do I have the top agile retrospective experts in my home chatting and sharing tips. I highly recommend watching the recording if you missed this.

On a personal note, my biggest insight in this session was actually not about retrospectives, although I learnt so many things, it was about self care. My biggest insight came from Paul Tevis, when he said “This is not working from home, this is being at home during a crises and trying to get work done”. Maybe it was actually about retrospectives because I had my own internal retrospective then. His words helped me change my perspective, be kinder to myself and accept that we’re in a crises. This is not how things should be, these are extraordinary times – be kind, be gentle, first to yourself, then to others.