Often remote teams can be a bit wary of Retros as the tradition ‘post-it-notes on wall’ system doesn’t work well across a video call. However, in my opinion, Retros are even more important for remote teams. That’s because it’s easy for me to see how people in the room as me are feeling from body language and exclamations of joy/horror. But with a remote team you only have calls and slack messages to infer how someone is feeling. So here are a few ideas on how remote teams can run retros.
Retro is short for retrospective which had the official definition, ‘looking back or dealing with past situations’.
In the agile world retros are a time for a team to look back over the last sprint and decide on some actions they’ll take in the next sprint.
It gives the team time to review the last sprint and set some actions that they think could improve their process in the next sprint.
As an agile company we should always be looking at how we can improve our process. But equally important for a remote team is the ability to spend quality time together as a team.
When working remotely most of your interactions are heavily focused on work and you don’t often get time to relax in the company of your colleagues and build relationships.
The first thing to consider when planning you retro is how long you schedule for it. It’s important that the team has enough time to express all their thoughts without feeling rushed. It can sometimes feel like retros take away time from other tasks but remember the learnings and actions should make you more efficient in the next sprint.
I’ve worked in lots of places where people go all out with their retro themes. Pirates, caterpillars, hot air balloons. You name it, there’s a retro theme based on it. However these complex retros don’t really work remotely. They can take a lot of time to explain and can detract from the main part of the retro, reviewing the last sprint. So my advice is to keep it simple. I’ve recommended a couple of simple ideas below.
Facial expressions can really help give context to your comments. Sometimes comments can sound harsh if you haven’t got the full context of someone's facial expressions.
Spending a few minutes at the beginning doing something fun makes everyone feel comfortable and allows people to express their personality a little.
Everyone in a retro should feel comfortable to express their opinions no matter what their role or seniority.
A scrum master should always make sure that retros are happening every sprint but anyone can facilitate the retro. I recommend taking turns each sprint so that everyone feels at the same level in a retro. In some situations it might even be a good idea to get someone outside the team to facilitate the retro.