A reader asked what he could do to inject some life into his sprint retrospectives. He’d been using two questions “What did we do well?” and “What could we do better?” for several sprint retrospectives with the general goal of improving performance. Nothing really changed.

Sometimes people get stuck thinking along vague lines. When we make a problem more concrete, people come up with different, and often better, ideas.

Here’s a simple 5-step plan for improving your sprint retrospectives.

Step 1: Choose a more specific focus for your retrospective

Choose a specific focus, such as “improving team communication”. (You could use engineering practices, customer relationships…whatever is most relevant to the team right now.)

Step 2: Begin by sharing that focus

Rather than starting with questions, start by setting the stage for your sprint retrospectives. Share the focus. Have the team do a quick check-in. Review your meeting agreements, or take time to create some.

Step 3: Gather data around the focus

Then gather some data about focus topic, for example, “teamwork.”

Have the team identify 5-6 behaviors they feel are critical to productive teamwork. Draw a radar chart and label each arm with one of the behaviors. The center

Ask each person to mark on the chart how well the team is doing on that behavior.

radar chart

Step 4: Analyze and discuss

Now, use the data from the radar chart to start a discussion. Examine areas where perceptions differ (some people indicated we’re at “10” on this and others indicate “2”). Look at how behaviors affect the team or how the absence of some behaviors affect the team.

Based on the discussion, ask the team to identify one or two behaviors they want to increase or be more aware of in the next iteration.

Step 5: Monitor retrospective actions

Finally, devise a way to track that behavior in the iteration.

Bonus Step: Calculate your Meeting ROTI

Are you tired of sitting through ineffective meetings and retrospectives? Start calculating your Meeting ROTI: your Meeting Return on Time Invested and be done with bad meetings.

Want to know more ways you can improve your sprint retrospectives? Check out my online course: Powerful Retrospectives.

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