A Guide to Surviving Your First (Or Hundredth) Retro

  • What could go wrong? This isn’t just for retros. I use this as I prepare for almost any meeting. For example, do I expect someone will dominate the conversation? Or maybe I worry the group will go off script so I’ll draft a one sentence purpose statement and place it front and center. Recently, I was concerned a team would convince themselves they should work more hours. In big, red letters across the top of a white board, I wrote, “Do different, not do more.” I referred back to it often as we talked.
  • Did I get everyone talking early? I find it useful to get everyone to say something-no matter how trivial-within the first five minutes. For example, ask everyone to write on a sticky a 1 (worst sprint ever) to a 5 (best sprint ever). Then ask them to share their number with the team and give a single sentence explaining why. There’s many others, and I don’t always use an ice breaker like this. However, if I have a less interactive retro lined up, I’ll employ one.
  • When and how do I get them on their feet? Let me be clear here. I’m not suggesting we should gamify the retro. In fact, as an introvert myself, I find the notion of crafting games for retros contrived and awkward so I avoid them. But how do I get and keep them engaged? Is there an opportunity to converge on an idea using dot voting? Or maybe utilize spectrum lines as a means to prime the conversation. What matters is to get them moving periodically.
  • How am I budgeting my time? I always have Excel open on my computer, and as I prep for a retro, I brainstorm by writing ideas, concepts, or whatever else comes to mind as they come to me. (Visit Retromat for inspiration.) One thing I always do before a retro is write out a grid like you see in the image. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s the facilitator’s job to create the container, and this is an example of one such container I used during the first retro with a new team. It’s very rough and ugly because it’s just for my own purposes. Finally, I jot down a few notes and that grid on an index card that I keep in my back pocket and refer back to it during the retro, if need be.




A confused soul who can't decide whether he's an agile coach or Scrum Master

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Tanner Wortham

Tanner Wortham

A confused soul who can't decide whether he's an agile coach or Scrum Master

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