When we start facilitating retrospectives (I still remember the first ones I facilitated), we are often focused on getting the structure right, and we may forget that we can uncover insights at any time during the retrospective. This module is all about increasing our chances of facilitating a productive and effective retrospective.
Team Norms, a productivity and engagement tool for Scrum Masters
In the second instalment of the Agile Retrospectives Masterclass with David Horowitz, we talk about the 5 phases of a successful retrospective, and share tips and ideas for each of those phases to ensure you are prepared and get the team to find and act on breakthrough improvements.
It all starts with a simple check-in: “Set the Stage”, Phase 1 of a successful retrospective
When we start a retrospective, usually at the end of a Sprint, the team member’s minds might be on that last bug they just closed, or the story that didn’t get delivered, or the feedback they just got from stakeholders. The Check-in phase of the retrospectives helps all the team members, and the facilitator to get into the retrospective mood. To forget the open threads that will need to be picked up later, and focus on the question: “How can we do even better in the next Sprint?”
Gathering Data and Generating Insights, the core of an Agile Retrospective
If we want to enable deeper conversations, we need to be aware that the information that is shared will directly affect the quality of the conversations. Therefore, Agile Retrospectives require special attention to the “gathering data” phase. There are many ways to gather data, and some might even happen during the Sprint, instead of during the retrospective.
During the retrospective, however, we will visualize that data and help the team make sense of it.
In this segment, we talk about the timeline exercise, and how to use emotional-queues to help uncover important pieces of information.
When the data is visible and understandable, then the team focuses on finding insights by analyzing the data and generating possible connections and causal links. Here the challenge for a Scrum Master is to prevent the team from jumping too early into solutions before they deeply understand the problem they are trying to solve.
David shares some tips to help prevent the team from discussing solutions before they have a shared understanding of the problem. We talk about The 5 Why’s technique, but there are many more.
Making Retrospectives Impactful: Deciding what to do
Many teams fail in Phase 4, Deciding what to do. But they might fail in quite different ways. For example, some teams might want to commit to too many items at once, while other teams might not commit to any improvement. And finally, the worst problem: those teams that commit to improvements, but work on none of them.
Great teams, understand well how many improvements they can take from a retrospective, and are clear on the commitment, maybe even including the improvement ideas as items on their Sprint backlog.
In this segment, we talk about the ICE method for prioritizing improvement ideas and the importance of brainstorming several solutions before deciding what to do. It’s also important to use methods of consensus generation when there are several options that seem equally valuable. The commitment of each team member to the solution to be tried will directly impact their commitment to the work to be done for that solution.
At the end of the retrospective, our goals are to provide closure, a sense of achievement, and energy for the work ahead.
How can we do that? In this segment, we talk about the “retro on the retro” and the “gif check-out”. Two simple approaches that help the team feel a sense of accomplishment, and also get better at doing future retrospectives.
In the first installment of the Agile Retrospectives Masterclass with David Horowitz, we talk about the basic setup for a successful retrospective. It all starts with what David calls the triangle of success: People, Process/facilitation, and Follow-through.
How to set up your Agile Retrospectives for success with the right people
#Remote meetings have been a topic that affects Agile teams for a long time. As many more teams go #Remote without previous experience, they become an even bigger topic for Scrum Masters who now need to facilitate online meetings almost every day.
In this episode, Lisette Sutherland (creator of the Work Together Anywhere Workshop) joins us to share her insights on how to make those remote meetings rock!
When going #Remote, it is harder to get the life/work balance right
Katja is an Agile Coach in an organization that had to organize a distributed/#Remote Big Room Planning session in less than 24 hours! Listen in to learn how they pulled it off.
One of the key learnings from that effort was that a #Remote event will take a longer time (maybe 3-4 days) than a locally organize Big Room planning event. But there are many more insights that Katja shares on this LIVE Q&A
What have been the biggest challenges for you and for the teams that you support?
Molood joins us in the special LIVE Q&A episode to talk about Distributed Agile software development and many tools, tips, tricks, and techniques for teams that just recently moved to a #Remote-first work setting.
The POWER framework for successful #Remote meetings
Scrum Masters often have to face cultural anti-patterns when working with teams, and the organizations they are part of.Those cultural anti-patterns are being amplified by the move to #Remote work due to the #covid19 situation.
What can we do? How can we get ready?
Here are some tips to get you started or to help you further adapt to this new reality.
Lack of transparency is even worse when #Remote
There are many Scrum Masters that come on the Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast and share stories that relate to a culturally-engrained lack of transparency. This lack of transparency takes many forms:
Team members don’t share their struggles in the Daily Standup because they perceive that as a sign of weakness (for example)
Product Owners don’t share the reasons why certain changes are brought into the Sprint, perhaps because they themselves don’t know
Other teams we collaborate with don’t share changes to a dependency we have on them
Whatever symptoms of lack of transparency you experienced when working in the same office, those symptoms will only get worse when our organization moves to #Remote work. Some of the reasons are:
Individuals are less engaged and motivated due to the stress, or being distracted by the presence of children while they work, or because they don’t see (and therefore don’t take into account) their colleagues during the day
Sudden tasks or priority shifts are communicated to individuals, and the rest of the team isn’t physically present to witness that change
Now that we’re distributed we miss out on all the spontaneous collaboration that used to happen.
Tips for Scrum Masters to increase transparency and foster collaboration
As Scrum Masters, we must be deliberate about improving transparency and collaboration in #Remote teams. Our domain of expertise is collaboration, and we must keep adapting to enable collaboration at all times. Here are some tips, that may help you improve transparency, information sharing, and collaboration between team members and with other teams:
Have a collective retrospective with the teams on which your team has regular dependencies
Discuss with the Product Owner how to share changes to the Sprint so that all team members are aware and can share their possible impact on the work they have to finish
Move to a shorter Sprint. Agile is about creating more, and faster, feedback loops. As we go #Remote those feedback loops are even more important. Shorter sprints provide more transparency (problems are found faster), makes the amount of work smaller which helps with clarity (shorter stories), and with identifying and solving process problems in the team, and across teams
Have 2 daily check-ins
Quick tip for #Remote#Scrum Masters: Have 2 check-ins / day. One at the start of shared work hours, and one closer to the end of shared work hours. Make the second an “informal” check-in (e.g.: ask each team member to bring their favourite drink and enable video).
Integrate more often. If you are integrating with dependant teams at the end of the Sprint, consider bringing their work into your daily build pipeline, or assign specific team members on both teams to work on integration from the start of the sprint
Track dependencies on other teams just like you would a User Story. Understanding of dependencies will grow during the Sprint. Make sure you are covering that dependency on the Daily Standup if nothing else to learn that “everything is proceeding according to plan”
Create an URGENT Slack/Teams channel, so that team members can always explicitly ask for help to solve a problem they are facing. When #Remote, even waiting one more day can make the problem harder to find.
When we are #Remote, collaboration and cooperation are harder to achieve, and transparency can be a critical trigger for that collaboration to flourish. Consider what you can do as a Scrum Master to improve collaboration. Every day.
Stay Safe, #StayHome
More tips, and more insights from the Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast
Many of us are going #Remote because of the #covid19 situation world-wide. In this very special episode we cover tips, tricks and techniques on how Scrum Masters can help their teams go #Remote to thrive, not just survive.
In this episode, we mention a treasure trove of resources to help you in your adaptation to #Remote work. You can find those below
Resources for going #Remote and Distributed Agile teams
From that survey, the early results are conclusive, one of the biggest challenges you are facing right now is to help your teams coordinate their work, and collaborate effectively after transitioning to #Remote work.
So, to help you adapt to this new #Remote work reality, we collected the following strategies and tools for helping #Remote teams coordinate and collaborate effectively.
Many of us have started to work from home while our children are also at home, which presents additional challenges. Here’s a collected list of tips from our listeners on Twitter. You are not alone! Many others like you are working from home with kids!
Stay calm, be empathic with your colleagues
One of the most important rules when working from home is to respect each other, we are all in the same situation, we are all getting started in our #Remote work journey. A simple practice that will help you with this is to tell your self: “We are all figuring it out,” she said. “It might get a little messy.” Yes! It will, sometimes, get messy. But it will also improve over time.
Be understanding with your colleagues, give the example and say also to them at the start of your next call: “We are all figuring it out,” she said. “It might get a little messy.”
Use your mute button generously, but accept when the noise comes from the other side! Have a post-it ready to remind your colleagues they are not on mute. Be kind, though 🙂
Pay attention to your children. You’ve gained time, give it to them
I work from my home office. Have lunch together and engage mine with some books and other electronics to play games and learn new things. I am signing her up for an online class (fun class) tomorrow. It also helps with bonding as I save about 2 hours of commute time daily
Talk to your partner/spouse. Agree on how you will help each other
Many of you are working from home with your spouse or partner. You are probably both in the same situation, so talk early about how to handle the situation.
Daniel suggests ~2 hours shifts, talk about it, and agree on what would work for you.
We’re setting shifts a bit more flexibly according to meeting schedules but yeah, more or less 2 hours each. And 100% agree on the second part. Also important to adjust them externally to workmates and clients.
Another tip is to share your work meetings calendar with your spouse/partner and try to help each other. You may try to book meetings when one of the adults in the house is not having another meeting (if possible).
In any case, don’t forget: be empathic with your spouse/partner too! You are both going through the same experience.
Anna has a slightly different approach, she suggests short bursts (more likely to work with smaller children), it’s a bit like the famous Pomodoro technique (which some already call Mozarella technique because “Pomodoro” apparently have been trademarked 🤷🏻♂️)
That is a great challenge, not with older kids, but with the youngest. What we are trying now is something like Pomodoro but with longer breaks work. We ask for uninterrupted time for 30-45 mins. And then reconnect. And repeat…
Remember, this is what being empathic towards others and yourself means! However, you are an Agilist! You also know that you will be adapting and improving over time. Stay with it.
Create a routine of reflection, individually and with your partner/spouse. And if your kids are old enough include them in that reflection. They will benefit from your example and will learn to be deliberate about reflecting and adapting to novel situations in their lives.
Help your children learn and practice skills at home, it’s a win/win!
The final tip comes from Paul:
Drawing, how to draw things from internet he has his ipad and practices different drawings. Reading different kind of books. Also watching the plants grow :))
Do your children already want to practice a skill? Maybe playing the piano or guitar? Or learn how to draw? Help them out. Buy them an internet course, and let them practice. Those skills will be beneficial immediately for you, and in the future for them! It’s a win/win!
What other techniques and approaches have worked for you? Share your learnings below in the comments!