How to start a retrospective meeting

20 May 2019, Łukasz Maczułajtys

Every retrospective should have an agenda and consist of the following phases:

  1. Setting the stage
  2. Gathering data
  3. Generating insights
  4. Deciding what to do
  5. Closing the retrospective

In this article I’m going to focus on the first phase.

Prepare the room

Get ready the room before the meeting. Make sure all whiteboards are clean and that there is enough flipchart paper and post-its. You should also ensure that there are enough pens and working markers. Searching for missing things during the meeting distracts participants.

And last but not least provide some snacks. It has a positive effect on the team attitude. No one likes to be hungry.

Why we are here

As a meeting facilitator you should welcome everyone and explain the purpose of the meeting. People should know and understand the goal of the meeting. Explain the rules. Ask people to close their laptops and their put away their phones.

To set proper attitude, you can read the Prime Directive:

“Regardless of what we discover, we must understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job he or she could, give what was known at the time, his or her skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.”

–Norm Kerth, Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Review

What and when

Tell the participants what you are going to do and how much time it is going to take. Expose an agenda in a visible place. Every phase of the meeting needs to be pointed out in the agenda. I usually display the agenda on a screen. I also normally prepare a few slides with the current stage highlighted. You can also use a flipchart and mark finished phases on it.

Let people speak

After the above short introduction it’s time for the others. As a part of a warm-up everyone should share his or her thoughts about the last sprint in no more than one or two sentences. This activity improves communication during the meeting and reduces the risk of low commitment.

To help in this task, ask one of this questions (or invent your own):

  • In a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate the last sprint? Justify in one sentence.
  • Which vehicle last sprint reminds you of and why?
  • What do you expect from this retrospective?
  • Whom would you like to give praise and what for?
  • What have you learned from this sprint?

Choose question that will cater for a positive atmosphere. Let people make fun while answering. Keep in mind that the retrospective should focus not only on negative things. The team should also discuss positive aspects that should be strengthened in the future.

Timebox

Whole phase shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes when you start retrospectives with a team. After a few meetings, it will take you 5 minutes.

More tips for further retrospective phases to come in the next post. Stay tuned.

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