Scrum Masters all over the world make a significant effort to get better at facilitating retrospectives… Until they have to host a Distributed Retrospective. At that point, we learn that all you learned about facilitating retrospectives is still useful, but not nearly enough!
Preparing, hosting, and facilitating a Distributed Retrospective is a completely different challenge.
The 4 things that you need to make Distributed Retrospectives work
There’s no single recipe to make Distributed Retrospectives work. But there are certain ingredients you need to make sure you have in place. It’s important to try to have all of these 4 ingredients in place.
Those 4 ingredients are:
- get people to participate actively
- get everybody on video (if at all possible)
- pace them forward all the time (e.g. using strict timeboxes)
- use round-robin (or some other technique) to get everybody to talk
The most common anti-patterns in Distributed Retrospectives
As with all other ceremonies, there are some things that are hard to get right and often go wrong. Here’s a short list to keep in mind and prepare to counter-act:
- Timing during the meeting (don’t let people run-off, make sure there’s time for all the exercises)
- Make sure you ask people to have a break before the retrospective. People tend not to take breaks when continuing to work, non-stop, at their computers.
- Make sure people are on the call ahead of the scheduled time, so that they are not trying to log-in for the first time a few minutes after the starting time.
Tips on how to prepare for a Distributed Retrospective
In this segment, we discuss many of the things we can do when preparing for a distributed retrospective. The most important aspect is to accept that a remote meeting is different from a co-located meeting, and therefore, requires different things like a more detailed agenda, for example. This is just one of the many tips we talk about in this segment.
But the pre-meeting preparation is only one of the aspects of preparing for a distributed retrospective. Another important aspect is to have the right tools in place. From Google Drawings to other tools, we discuss some of the tools that Aino has found help make distributed retrospectives successful.
Resources for further learning
Scrum Masters need to learn how to prepare and host distributed retrospectives. For that, we’ve collected a set of resources with the help of our guest Aino Corry. Here you have those:
- Even if distributed Retrospectives are different, ti is important to understand and be familiar with the format of Agile Retrospectives. For that, the book is the right place to start: Agile Retrospectives by Larsen and Derby.
- An old, but still an important resource, is the original retrospectives book by Norman Kerth: Project Retrospectives.
- When preparing for a distributed retrospective, Retromat provides a large number of exercises to inspire you.
Aino has also written an extensive blog post on preparing for and hosting distributed retrospectives. This blog post includes the templates that Aino mentions in this podcast episode.
About Aino Corry
Aino is a consultant and agile coach, and has Ph.d in computer science from the last century focused on design patterns and language constructs in programming languages, 20 years as a teacher in academia and industry