How to conduct engaging online retrospectives that fuel improvement

Online retrospective is a Scrum ceremony held at the end of each sprint, where the Scrum team evaluates its past working cycle with regards to people, relationships, process, and tools. Identify what went well and what did not and create a plan for improvements to be enacted during the next cycle. Retrospectives helps the team to collaboratively come up with ideas that they think will help in running projects more efficiently. Over time, subsequent cycles will become more and more optimized for your team’s needs and this can positively impact the overall  outcome of the project.

Challenges with engaging your team

Let’s face it - Online retrospectives are great, but a lot of teams find it hard to see success with it. Sprint after Sprint retrospectives are held, but it is difficult to measure the value it has brought to the team. So, why aren’t retrospectives working?

  • The biggest impediment is the team failing to take action reliably on the feedback. This results in the team not seeing value and sets up the next retrospective for failure. When teams start asking “didn’t we already speak about this” - it's a sign
  • Online retrospective meetings can quickly become dull if you walk through the same routine format in every meeting
  • When your team is distributed across time zones, scheduling a time that works for everyone is difficult and some teammates may end up missing the meeting
  • People are busy and taking time from their core work is distracting.
  • It is a lot of manual work collecting feedback, organizing, voting, discussing and extracting action items from the meeting

How to improve team engagement

So how can we overcome the challenges with team engagement? Let us discuss some ideas

  1. Take the meeting to where your team is
  2. Timebox your meetings
  3. Switch question templates
  4. Send actionable reminders
  5. Convert responses into action items for tracking
  6. Create space for feedback and comments
  7. Be remote friendly

Take the meeting to where your team is

Slack is a de facto team collaboration tool. Most agile teams have already moved to Slack for internal communication and collaboration. People like interacting with teammates in Slack. Holding the meetings in Slack means the entire team need not switch context to another tool just for taking part in the meeting. And since most of the team members are already active in Slack, engagement for the meetings in Slack are also expected to be high.

Timebox your meetings

Typical retrospective process requires your team to go through collecting feedback, organizing feedback, voting, discussing and finalizing action items. It can easily go off track because of lack of focus and trifling topics of discussion. This could be kicked off with time boxing the meetings. Automate the routine aspects of conducting the meeting to a specialized bot for best results.

Switch question templates

Meetings can quickly become dull if you run your team through the same format every time. The trick for an engaging retrospective is to change up the format once in a while. And you can choose among different question formats to keep it interesting.

Here are a few popular question templates

  • Start, Stop, Continue
  • Lean Coffee
  • Mad, Sad, Glad
  • Sailbot
  • Liked, Learned, Lacked, Longed (4L’s)

This is another way to keep the retros fun and engaging.

Send actionable reminders

In the middle of the busy working day, there are chances some teammates miss to participate. Allow sufficient time for people to join and then send them easy actionable reminders to improve team participation.

Convert responses into action items for tracking

By the end of the meeting, responses should be aggregated and tied to action items. This can be facilitated by conducting team votes. These votes can be anonymous too. These votes help the team to decide the priority of actionable items.

Be remote friendly

The rise of remote working means that more and more meetings are happening virtually and asynchronously. Finding an effective way to deal with distributed time zones means better participation and better the chances of a successful retrospective.

How Troopr can help

Troopr leverages Slack to configure and send the retrospective questions to the team members at a particular time (say 9.00 AM in their own local time-zone). Troopr lets you pick from 10+ question templates to configure and send it to the participants.

Troopr Check-ins

Everyone can type their retrospective feedback at a comfortable time during their day. Troopr sends them friendly reminders, encouraging them to contribute.

Troopr retrospective

Troopr aggregates these responses into beautiful reports shared in a common Slack channel and in a shared web portal. The responses are then open for voting and comments from all the team members. Any feedback item can be converted into an actionable task with a single click without leaving Slack. These tasks are permanently linked and tracked to completion in Jira (or another tracker of your choice).

Retrospective reports

Do more than retrospectives online

Troopr goes beyond retros to provide all-in-one Scrum ceremonies automations in Slack. Troopr Check-ins meeting automation for your team is the easiest way to periodically collect team responses in Slack and keep record of the reports.

Troopr Check-ins offers templates for other scrum ceremonies including Daily Scrum, Planning Poker, and more. All Check-ins come with customizable scheduling and reporting options, multi time zone support, beautiful web reports, historical reports, insights and more.

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