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How to run a Remote Scrum Sprint Retrospective meeting

Sprint Retrospective is one of the several Scrum events where the Scrum teams conduct different practices and traditional actions. Sometimes it is a joy to operate team practices remotely and sometimes it is even required.

Emotional safety is easily accomplished when the entire Scrum team is sharing feedback from the convenience of their home. Keeping participants involved is easy when the event format is different and unexpected. Here are three retrospectives (not only Sprint retrospective meetings) that brought results and enjoyment to my team. Reference: Sprint Retrospective meeting, BVOP.org, 2019

I hope they will work for you. 

The Daily Retrospective meeting 

Main idea: This interpretation comes from the team’s feedback that we often forget what went on during the whole period since the last Retro. It also strives to show that there are positive and negative experiences throughout the same day, so we need to appreciate our days in a more well-rounded way. The key takeaway is that we learn something new everyday. It is the learning and growing that makes it worth going through the tough times and enjoying the good times as one team.

Preparation: Inform the team that every day one of them will be filling in the Daily Retro board. I used Trello, but any other retrospective software will do.

Picking a team member is fun when done randomly, so I used this Random Name Picker, created by our Business Analyst P. Ivanov.

Send a message to the randomly selected team member and ask them to fill in the Retro board at the end of the day with impressions from their work day.

I used the following feedback categories, feel free to change them:

  • What worked well today
  • What didn’t work so well or blocked me 
  • What improvement I really need in my work life
  • What or Who inspired me to give my best today

Once feedback is gathered from all team members, schedule the Daily Retro.

How to run it: Ask each participant to read their feedback for the whole day – the good, the bad, the improvement and the inspiration. Instead of going vertically and focusing on just positive or negative feedback, you get a great opportunity to elevate your team’s perspective. This approach also gives a nice historical overview of how the past period went on by as every day is recorded much like a team’s diary.

After the recap of each day, help the team identify actions for keeping up with a good practice or for implementing needed improvements. 

Recognizing that team members inspire one another is a powerful moment in this type of retrospective. Dedicate time and attention to this valuable realization.

The Retro Retrospective meeting

Main Idea: Let’s go back to the roots of this powerful practice and conduct it in the way it was first invented. This is a great chance to pay respect to Virginia Satir, who came up with the idea of reflecting on the past and thus building happier and more fulfilling relationships. This is a person who is not from the IT Software world, but whose breakthroughs and ideas are still used in business organizations today.

Preparation: Here is a presentation that gives a concise overview of the work of Virginia Satir and sets the scene for the original practice. There is a great article at the end, which explains in more depth the power of the 4-question retrospective.

How to run it: Design a board – Trello or any other Retro software – that has the original 4 questions of the practice with the explanations of how each question needs to be approached:

  • What went well? – Focus on the big picture first, then zoom in on the details
  • What didn’t go so well? – Focus on what happened and was not ideal. Only state problems, not solutions at this point.
  • What Have I Learned? – Both Positive and Negative lessons count.
  • What Still Puzzles Me? – Express things we wish we had the answers for, but don’t. Express concerns or doubts and let’s address our worries.

The additional clarification to each question is just as important. Providing these clarifications brought on deeper thoughts and revelations than usual. As the team is remotely located, aligning before answering each question helped with a unified understanding of what the question really asks.

When going through trying times, it is important to let everyone show both vulnerability and support for one another. The final question makes it possible to express worries and share fears in a healthy way. 

Getting actions from all the questions brings the situation back under the team’s control and ends the meeting on a high note.

That’s how easy it is to run the Retro retrospective

The Cool Retrospective

Main Idea: This format was inspired by an article in the New York Times that explained why sensory metaphors like ‘cool’ and ‘bright’ have a bigger impact on people’s perception. Describing someone as ‘cold’ would be more powerful than calling that person ‘unfriendly’, as people grasp an abstract quality better when it is linked to a physical sensation they understand. 

Preparation: Here is a short presentation to get the team onboard with the idea. The actual goal is to get team members engaged unexpectedly and appeal to their creative side. 

How to run it: Construct the Retro questions using sensory metaphors. Here are the ones that I used:

  • What’s a shining example of things working well?
  • What’s been squeaky and needs fixing?
  • How can we make our work-life sweeter?

Request that answers also contain sensory metaphors.mI was amazed about the increased amount of feedback that this approach elicited.

Working remotely has its challenges. Misunderstandings or lack of enough conversations may happen even in the most mature teams.

This communication approach is a fun way to draw people back in and make it possible to better understand each other’s abstract experiences and problems. This leads to meaningful improvement actions that everyone is eager to own and complete.

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