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Proven Kanban retrospective plan to improve your taskboard

This Kanban retrospective plan is designed to help your team review their taskboard and understand how well the principles of Kanban are implemented in their process. It will help your team identify tangible improvements for their board. The plan includes a facilitator guide and Mural template for a remote team.

Before the retrospective

We recommend setting the scene for your team a few days before the retrospective. Let them know you will be talking about their taskboard and seeing if there are any changes that might make sense for the team to try.

Timesaving Tip: If you’d like to save time in the retrospective, you could send out the taskboard quiz before the meeting and ask people to add their answers to the Mural board before the meeting.

Expert Tip: The timings below are suggested timeboxes, you might need to adjust them for your team and the time you have available for the retrospective. The total recommended time for this retrospective is 1 hour, however if you regularly run out of time in retrospectives and never quite get to the concrete action, we highly recommend scheduling the meeting for 75 minutes, so that get through the whole plan. The last 2 parts: Decide what to do and Closing the retrospective are important for long term value from retrospectives. Our expert tips below will help you navigate potential time wasting pitfalls with grace.

Remote Tip: We created a template for this retrospective in Mural. If you are running the retrospective remotely we recommend using this template or creating your own in whichever tool you normally use.

Facilitating the retrospective

1. Set The Stage

Timebox: 5 minutes

Instructions: Ask the team to find an icon or image that describes their taskboard to them. Give them 2 minutes, then go around and have each person explain in 1 sentence word why they picked that image.

Variations: If you are doing this in person you could have people act out an expression of how they feel, or cut up some images from magazines and have them on the table for people to select from. For remote you can put some images on the board in advance for people to pick from if you think it might take too long for them to find an image. Our favourite source for images like this is a random picture generator. If you’re using mural – you can simply do a google search in the image icon section.

Expert Tip: The goal here is for everyone to quickly understand how each person feels about their taskboard. Beware of spending too much time here. If the first person who shares takes more than 10 seconds, immediately remind people to share quickly and in 1 sentence (you can even limit it to 1 word if your team like to talk a lot). If you don’t correct the first person, others will follow their example and before you know it you’ve spent 15 minutes on setting the stage!

2. Gather Data

Timebox: 10 minutes

Instructions: Ask the team the first question from the taskboard quiz. The questions are also available on the Mural template. If you have many people who think this might be a ‘yes’, then mark this with a tick. Go through all 10 questions.

Variations: If you have some quiet team members or one person in the team who likes to dominate the conversation you could get each person to answer for themselves silently and then group items as “Yes”, “No” and “Mixed” if some people think yes and some think no.

If the team has low trust, try pairing people up and having each pair discuss 2 or 3 items. The pairs then give their answers. This helps as no one has to defend their personal judgement. Plus, it’s easier to get 2 people to agree than a larger group.

Timesaving Tip: If you’d like to save time in the retrospective, you could send out the taskboard quiz before the meeting and ask people to add their answers to the Mural board before the meeting.

Expert Tip: The goal here is to quickly filter which items to focus on for the rest of the retrospective. If the team strongly disagree with each other’s answers it is likely a symptom of a deeper conflict. Try moving the focus to the items everyone agrees as yes, and park any particularly sticky issues for a later retrospective (which you would want to prepare well for with some one on one conversations to surface the deeper issue.)

3. Generate Insights

Timebox: 25 minutes

Instructions: For those questions you ticked as yes. Read through the short suggestions on the second page of the quiz download. If you are using the Mural board, uncover these so the team can read them for themselves. Then, ask the team if they have any ideas to try. Get people to write up each idea on a post-it note. If the team has no ideas – perhaps add a post-it note with something for the team to investigate.

Also ask the team if they have any other ideas that are not related to the quiz, to improve their task board. Have them add these on Post-it notes aswell.

Expert Tip: The goal for generate insights is quantity not quality, so encourage people to suggest wild crazy ideas that might never work. These ideas might just trigger a useful idea for someone else. Challenge people to write at least 10 post-its each. This helps remove their judgement filter, as they focus on the number instead of the quality of each idea. You can create quite a bit energy by having each person read out their idea as they have written it. No explaining, just reading it out, as it might spark an idea for someone else.

4. Decide what to do

Timebox: 15 minutes

Instructions: You should have a few post-it notes with suggestions up. Ask the team to dot vote for the post-its they think will have the biggest impact on them. Give each person 3 dots to vote on their favourites.
Once you have narrowed down the options to the one (or two maximum) post its with the highest number of votes, have the team answer these questions about that change.

  1. What will we actually do?
  2. Who will make the change?
  3. When will we make the change?
  4. How will we measure if this change is working? What will be different because of it?
  5. How long shall we give the change before we measure to see if its working?

Expert Tip: This is the most important step of the retrospective. So, don’t skip it! The most common mistake we see with retrospectives is the outcome is a list of vague actions which never get done. Instead, if everyone on the team knows the answers to the 5 questions above, then the chance that they will actually implement the action is very high.

5. Close the retrospective

Timebox: 5 minutes

Instructions: Write up a scale of 1 to 5. With 1 being “This was a waste of time” and 5 being “I think this change will really help”.
Ask each member to give the retrospective a score out of 5 AND write down what needs to be different for them to have a score of 5.

Expert Tip: This activity is sometimes called the perfection game. The goal is not just to get a score, but more importantly to find out what a ‘perfect’ score would look like for each participant. Don’t worry specifically about the score, focus instead on how you can improve as a facilitator to help people get more value from the retrospective.

After the retrospective

Capture the action everyone agreed in Decide what to do and share it with the whole team as a reminder. This can be as simple as taking a screenshot or photo of the action and concrete steps and sharing it in the teams slack/teams channel. You could also print it out to stick on a physical board or simply email it to everyone.

If the answer above to question 5 was a few weeks in the future, put a reminder in a team calendar so you don’t forget to measure the impact.

Expert Tip: As the facilitator, you don’t need to be the person who shares this. Just make sure it’s clear in the retrospective who will do it. This is a great way to get team members to start taking on some responsibility for improvements.

Finally, take note of some of the feedback in the Close section of the retrospective and think about how you might improve the next retrospective based on this feedback.

If you run this retrospective, we would love to hear how you found it. Also, tell us what tweaks you made for your team. So, leave a comment below!

We follow the retrospective format laid out in the Agile Retrospectives book. If you are a Scrum Master or agile coach, we highly recommend owning a copy of this book!

If you are completely new to running retrospectives, this post might help you.

Agile retrospectives book