How do we facilitate better retrospective meetings as a remote team
If you are in a software team or managing one or a few, then retrospective meetings are a common part of your agenda, where the whole team hops into a meeting room (physical or virtual) to discuss the pros and cons of the existing team workflows, and come to terms with what needs attention and improvements. These meetings are held at the end of each cycle (Sprint/Project) and give an opportunity for the teams to review and create a road map of improvements to be enacted for the next cycle(s).
The trends are changing now - most organizations have moved into remote work and more teams have members who work in different time zones than ever before..
We at Troopr are a remote distributed team working in different time zones. Initially, our meetings happened in a “traditional virtual way of doing it”. We hopped into a virtual meeting room and everyone answered a set of standard retrospective questions. However, finding a suitable time that worked for everyone was a challenge.
Besides being bound by time zones, there was another significant challenge. When the team gets on video calls answering those questions, there is often not enough time for the team to give thoughts to each other’s responses and build on it with creative suggestions. It is also not the best use of everybody’s time when there are more than a few participants.
Also, the entire process was manual and required one person to coordinate the meeting logistics, take notes during the meeting and follow up with the participants on the action items post the meeting. This is both a tedious and error-prone process.
To knock off these limitations, we did a little extra to refine and automate the process at each stage and set up a new format that has been clearly working for us now.
Before getting into the actual process of how we are doing our retro meetings now, I’ll quickly run through some of the best practices that we’ve incorporated in our new process.
Best practices that helped us rock the remote retrospective meetings
1. Handle time zones effectively
Scheduling a synchronous meeting during prime working hours is hard. It interrupts the working schedule and someone gets missed from the meeting. We would always prefer the whole team in the meeting. So we moved to asynchronous meetings for the team so everyone can respond to it at their comfortable timings.
2. Customize questions for every meeting
In order for our team members to proactively contribute to the meeting, we made it interesting with customized questions and templates instead of standard ones. This encouraged our team to get involved and improved overall engagement.
3. Fuel responses with follow-up
In the middle of the busy working day, there are chances that some of our colleagues missed to get back to the retrospective questions. We scheduled smart actionable follow-ups in our process that reminded the team to get back to the questions.
4. Convert feedback into action items
We wanted to make it easier to convert the feedback into actionable items in our project tracker. So we made the reports actionable with one-click options to convert feedback to issues. The converted issues also keep context from the retrospective report for future reference.
5. Save everything
We wanted to improve the manual process of collecting minutes of the retrospective meeting and sharing with the team and following up on the action items. So we automated the process of saving and sharing the report to keep the reports for future reference that enables us to track and action any long-term improvements.
Our new way of holding the retrospective meetings
We leverage Slack - where all of our team members are available. We set up Troopr to configure and send the retrospective questions to the team members at 10.00 am in their own local time zone.
Everyone could type their retrospective feedback at a comfortable time during their day. If someone fails to remember to update their retrospective response within the time-boxed schedule, Troopr sends them a notification reminder, encouraging them to contribute.
Then, Troopr automatically aggregates these responses into beautiful reports shared in a common Slack channel and in a shared web portal. This reporting capability of Troopr was convenient for our project manager, he could view the entire report at a comfortable timing without context switching.
Troopr also provides a history of retrospectives, so that we can catch up on that anytime when required. Troopr also provides engagement reports that help us to see how the participants are contributing over time.
Troopr provides a proven set of templates to build upon that sets clear boundaries and reduces the risk of finger-pointing and encourages everyone to fairly contribute to the process improvements. Also, another benefit to Slack is that some of our team members feel more comfortable writing something down, rather than having to express their thoughts in a meeting room.
As long as retrospectives actually get done and is productive, the how is up to you. You can do it the traditional way or take a new approach of doing it.
We definitely don’t regret our way of doing it - everyone in our team had a great time and it is dynamic, energetic and constructive. So suppose you are going to check out our approach - You might too find Troopr valuable.
Troopr is designed to fit teams of any size and is already trusted by teams at Accenture, Delivery Hero, Electronic Arts and more.
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