Webinar Recap: Effective Retrospectives in the Age of Coronavirus

by David Horowitz

Setting the stage. Gathering data. Encouraging participation. Making your team feel safe.

Facilitating retrospectives doesn’t come without challenges that require attention and preparation to overcome. And these obstacles to success can be exaggerated by a sudden and dramatic shift in team dynamics like a sudden transition from being together to working from home.

Remote Retrospectives: Where To Begin

When it comes to running an effective retrospective while distributed, the best place to start is at the beginning — the beginning of the 5 Phase Approach, that is.

Set The Stage — Virtually

  • With a remote team, structure is more important than ever. Experts recommend putting a heavy focus on maintaining structure and constantly informing teammates where you’re at along the way.
  • Check-ins are imperative — not only to keep track of work but also to humanize the distributed experience and show a sense of understanding.
  • A check-in can be something as simple as having team members identify how they’re feeling by choosing a word from a list of adjectives, or it can be a check-in on the core-protocols of the company. It’s important to note the constantly changing state of the world and with that comes a constant need for agility as a team, a core-protocols check-in is a good way to manage any confusion.
  • Keep in mind, a check-in is different from an icebreaker and the two shouldn’t be used interchangeably. A check-in identifies where team members stand mentally, while an icebreaker can be a way to get to know someone.
  • To keep check-ins from becoming an hour-long chat about life, make them visual and engaging, giving people a chance to think about things and write or draw them out prior to answering out loud.

Gather The Data

With asynchronous collaboration being a hot topic right now, facilitators should allow some space for new data to be added within the retrospective.

Be Prepared

  • Not solely in the form of data implementation but also across the retrospective, being prepared is key to success for the entire team.
  • Diana Larsen shared:

Questions & Answers From The Webinar‍

Question: What are some suggestions for a fun, mind-freeing retrospective?

Molood’s Answer: Collective mediation: guided meditation followed by a retrospective. This helps your mind to be free before delving into tough topics. Also, having a talk over the phone while on a walk takes away the screen aspect and allows you to focus on the conversation.

Question: How do you boost psychological safety in your retrospectives?

Esther’s Answer: Do a safety survey and ask what can be done to make it a more comfortable speaking environment for the team. Figure out what level of safety your team is at before deciding what needs to be done. Some teams may not have as much work to do, others may need to have a bigger meeting.

Question: How do you build psychological safety when working from home?

Esther’s Answer: The more your team gets into the habit of understanding that it’s okay to talk about things to continue getting better at what you’re doing. This includes checking in on side channels and making sure you’re talking to people, facilitating continuous learning — not incremental learning.

Question: How do you deal with action items and follow-through?

Jay Allen’s Answer: Have an understanding that the follow-through isn’t for the facilitator, it’s for the team. Be sure the action item and what was agreed upon is clear and visible post-retrospective to the entire team.

Question: Video or no video? How do you create engagement when not everyone is comfortable?

Molood’s Answer: Note before the retrospective whether or not video will be used, and be understanding that technology can fail or glitch. Also, understand that not everyone has the communication bandwidth to focus without many of the in-person visual cues. Nodding, for example, is a way people acknowledge one another with video, without it, the acknowledgment should be done in another way.

Question: If you had to pick one technique or game that works for remote teams for a retrospective what would it be?

Esther’s Answer: Sticky walls — anything that has to do with brainstorming and grouping.

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