Scrum Beginnings (Part 10): Your First Retrospective!

Open Book that says "Fail, Fail Again. Fail Better"

As we close down the end of the sprint, I can’t help but get excited for the team retrospective. The reason I look forward to it so much is because it allows us a full hour to be real with each other and talk about every good, bad and ugly thing that happened during the last two weeks. It also allows me an opportunity to really dig in and find out what each of the team members think while also giving me the overall perception of how things are going.

As you remember from your training, the retrospective has both qualitative and quantitative measures to reflect on. These could be metrics about your team performance or they could be about subjective topics such as team chemistry or overall contentment. There are many different ways to approach a retrospective, but today I am going to discuss one of my current favorites, called the RSA method.

RSA Method:

The RSA method stands for Rad/Sad/Add, and it refers to things that happened during the sprint that were awesome, things that made us sad/mad and the things that we would like to try out or add to a future sprint. I usually begin by writing three columns on the whiteboard and begin soliciting ideas from the team. Depending on the craziness of the sprint, the “Rad” or the “Sad” column could have many topics. Some of the “Rad” comments could be that the team swarmed really well on stories, or a specific member fixed a critical bug. Some of the sad comments might be that our priorities kept changing throughout the Sprint and much of our sprint planning ended up being discarded. Perhaps, we were blocked on finishing a story because of a dependency from another team. Finally, we might decide that we want to add a new way of reviewing test cases as an item for the “Add” column. Whatever is on the team’s minds, go ahead and start documenting them and placing the topics in the ideal column. After a few minutes, you will immediately have a laundry list of topics for the retrospective. You can decide to start with the negative topics first and finish with the positive ones last, or vice versa.

As we are discussing the items, I make sure to pay attention to each member and continue asking questions to facilitate the discussion further. I will always watch the body language and nonverbal clues of the members to see if their words align with what their body is saying. This is an invaluable skill to learn as a Scrum Master so that you can recognize when things may not always be as they seem. Another reason to keep an eye on everyone is because certain members may be intimated to speak in front of other extroverted members, so make sure to get everyone involved and then possibly discuss certain items in private if you feel that someone is too insecure to speak about it in front of the whole team.

Kaizen!

A great Scrum team will take the comments seriously and work to improve the bad habits and continue doing the things that made them successful in the past. I make it a goal for the team to take one item from the list and try to improve on it during the next sprint. In the past, some of these items have been “Help QA test stories if there is a bottleneck”, “Swarm on stories more consistently”, and “Update rally task hours before stand-up”. In the beginning, there will be a lot of things that need to be improved each iteration, so rather than trying to improve everything immediately, start small and focus on just a few items at a time so that you don’t overwhelm the team.

Remote Retrospectives!

You may not always have every member in the same office for a retrospective, so if you find yourself having to do a remote retro, a great tool to use is http://funretro.github.io/distributed/. It will allow you to create the same columns as I mentioned in the RSA method and allow each team member to see the board additions in real time. This will really help prevent remote employees from feeling left out!

There are so many ideas that can be written about for the retrospective, so instead of overloading you with too many techniques, try this one out and test out the effectiveness of it with your team. I hope this helps with your continual improvement!

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