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
In this episode, we explore in detail some of the most common anti-patterns Darren sees in the Product Owner role, and we discuss why a PO training is not necessary for a great PO.
The Great Product Owner: Business knowledge and outcome focus
To be a great Product Owner, it isn’t necessary to have attended a certification course. However, it is necessary to have a good connection to the business and a sharp focus on outcomes (impact) over output (more work). In this segment, we discuss what happens when you have those characteristics in your PO.
The Bad Product Owner: 3 Anti-patterns PO’s should avoid
There are many sides to a failed Product Owner role. In this episode, Darren shares with us some of the most common anti-patterns that he’s witnessed in his career as a Scrum Master.
Are you having trouble helping the team working well with their Product Owner? We’ve put together a course to help you work on the collaboration team-product owner. You can find it at:bit.ly/coachyourpo. 18 modules, 8+ hours of modules with tools and techniques that you can use to help teams and PO’s collaborate.
About Darren Smith
Darren, aka the Naked Scrum Master, has been helping teams and organizations be better than they were by exposing dysfunction and helping people to remove obstacles from their path so they can be happier and more fulfilled in their working lives.
In this episode, we explore the story of a team that was scattered and working outside the office. We then explore the anti-patterns that made those team members feel like outsiders in their own team. Finally, we talk about the antidote, what to do to make the team feel like a team, no matter where they are.
Featured Book for the Week: The culture code, Daniel Coyle
In The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle, Rik found a definition of the characteristics of successful groups. What makes them tick and got some inspiring stories that help him be a better coach for his teams.
About Rik Pennartz
Rik is an agile coach, who’s worked during the last years at the Volksbank, the Dutch Railways and ABN AMRO bank. Rik also teaches various agile courses such as Professional Scrum Master, DevOps fundamentals and Leading SAFe.
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
When Johanna visited Agile 2017, one of the largest Agile conferences that year, she was disappointed that the main advice people were giving on stage was: “don’t do distributed”. She then met Mark and started sharing her experience on how she had been able to make distributed agile work in her consulting work.
When working with remote teams we must be aware that the number of meetings can easily balloon up because the team does not meet in the corridor. As Scrum Master, we must help remote teams find workarounds for the calendar-driven, meeting-inflated anti-pattern for remote teams.
In this episode, we discuss how a Scrum Master can help a team find the right balance between meetings and ad-hoc interaction even when remote.
About Kristopher Stice-Hall
Is the co-owner of Digital Maelstrom, a consultancy specializing in custom software, DevOps, managed cloud services, and information security. He has been doing Scrum Master work for over 10 years. He has worked with fortune 500 companies to companies less than 15 people. He also has been doing software development for 17 years.
Distributed teams are a fact of the multinational organizations we work with. Hiding from it is not going to remove that. And crying “distributed agile = bad agile” is only going to alienate people who genuinely need to learn to cope with the fact that distributed teams are the new normal.
There are good and bad ways to adapt to the reality of distributed software, and copying the methods and practices from co-located teams into the digital world is not enough. Molood shares some of the common anti-patterns that arise when we plainly try to copy the co-located team methods into the new distributed reality.
One such example is the communication channels: trying to copy daily meetings from the co-located team into a digital world will eventually bump against the frustratingly low quality sound of some conference room setups. Molood suggests a different route and shows how a team she helped took full advantage of Slack (or any other asynchronous communication channel) to make their daily meetings for effective, and efficient for everyone involved.
Email is a very helpful tool. It has a lot of things going for it. Email gives us a quick way to jot down some thoughts and ask a colleague (or many) for help. It helps keep track of conversations. It even enables remote teams (with limited overlap in working hours) to communicate without loss of memory. However, it also has some bad sides when misused. In this story we explore how certain uses of email can be destructive for a team, and some tips on how to detect and avoid that anti-pattern.
Featured book of the week: Flawless Consulting, by Peter Block
Scrum Masters act as consultants. They help, but are not responsible for the outcome of the team. They answer, and most importantly, ask questions to help the team learn, reflect and advance. So, we must understand how to be a good consultant. Flawless Consulting, by Peter Block is a book about how to be a better “helper” (read consultant) for the teams and organizations we work with.
About Chad Beier
Chad’s first experience with Scrum was in 2005 on a global team responsible for consolidating financial software. After some dark days of death march projects, he left his traditional business analyst and project manager roles behind. He is now consulting organizations as an external change agent and organizational agility advisor.