The effectiveness of our retrospective meetings had plateaued for the last couple of sprints, but despite that I couldn’t believe for more than a second that we had nothing else to try in order to grow. We had been running with Agile for the last 9 months, but we weren’t coming up with many ideas to try and nudge us towards improving our processes. We’re we exhausted? We’re we distracted? Why we’re the last couple retro meetings ended early because we had run out of things to talk about?
Since I love geeking out on things that interest me, I had been doing some research into running more effective retrospective meetings. I found an entry in ‘Agile retrospectives – Making good teams great’ by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen that I thought I’d try. They advised to start each meeting with having each member of the team speak a few words. The theory goes that by speaking up at least once during the meeting, they would be more likely to speak up again and continue to participate throughout the meeting.
The question I went with was ‘Describe the last sprint in 3 words or so’. After the team mulled that over for a while, one member said that he can’t even remember what happened last sprint, to which the rest of the team echoed that thought. I then brought up the last sprint summary report and the team then talked through the value we had delivered and how we did it. This kick started everything and turned it into a very effective meeting which resulted in a few different things to try and adapt in the current sprint.
In case you’re wondering about how you could forget what you had just accomplished, I am going to add that I had been scheduling the retrospectives for the 2nd day of the subsequent sprint. My idea was to let the last sprint sink in with the team so that they could come to the meeting ready to discuss new ideas, but now I’m seeing why this meeting should be at the end of the current sprint just before the next sprint planning meeting. Everyone had flushed their mental buffer of what had happened last sprint and had already shifted their mental processes over to what they’re working on now. We’re going to make this change next sprint.