D. Caulfield

A Template for Effective Retros

Retrospectives are the team’s most valuable meeting. They enable the team to inspect and adapt their ways of working on a regular basis. Small, regular retros bring small, regular improvements to the team. Teams often launch into their retrospective meeting without a plan. The team goes into a room, writes down some thoughts on sticky notes and categorises them into “Good/Bad/Improvement ideas”. Then some (or lots of) actions are assigned and the meeting ends. A discussion is held on each item, actions are assigned and the meeting finishes.

While this can be effective, there is a better way to run retros and maximise their value. Retros usually do not deliver something tangible that is immediately obvious or valuable and so they can be taken for granted,. They are essential for long term growth but teams often feel that they are a ‘nice-to-have’ meeting.

Without well-run retros, your team cannot hope to improve significantly over time as they are removing the main opportunity to inspect and adapt. A good retro should follow the same rules as a good meeting. Think about all of the meetings you attend which are a waste of time. What do they have in common?

If our retros follow the same bad practices, why should we expect them to be anything but a wasteful meeting?

Below is a template I am developing with teams to run retrospectives. It is largely derived from Derby and Larsen’s expertise in the area, together with some additions I have found helpful for the teams. If you want to deep dive each section of the retro meeting, I suggest to read “Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great”.

You can copy this template for each retro and refine it over time for your needs.

Template

0. Preparation

Write down the list of actions taken in the previous retro.

Gather the team data to be shown and analysed. For example:

Tip: Create a Runbook on how to gather each data point above or even better - automate the whole thing for each sprint with a tool like Jira!

1. Set the stage

Welcome

You are all welcome to this sprint's retrospective. The purpose of this meeting is to look back over the last sprint and gather feedback on what went well and what went poorly.

State the Goal

The goal for this retro is to...

Ask for a Word (Ice breaker)

Ask each person for a quick word. Examples:

Plan

  1. Timebox: 90 minutes
  2. Review the last retros' actions and outcomes. Discuss further if necessary.
  3. Show the data.
  4. What was Good/Bad/Ideas/Thank yous.
  5. Actions for next sprint.
  6. Retro of retro.

2. Show the Data

Last Retro’s Actions

List the 1 or 2 actions from the last retro.

Metrics

You should have metrics prepared prior to the retro to analyze with the team. For example:

Coach your team to look for insights with questions such as:

Events/Insights

Ask the team to write down their thoughts for this sprint.

If the retro is in-person, use sticky notes on a whiteboard.

If the retro is remote, use a virtual retro board such as agile.coffee

Use a list of questions to get the team to think about different things. Examples:

Tip: Divide the whiteboard into columns such a Good/Bad/Ideas and place the sticky notes in the appropriate column.

Comments

Ask your team to quickly comment on any observations:

3. Create Actions/Improvements/Ideas

Go through each item and ask questions:

4. Decide What to Do Next

5. Close the Retro

Retro of retro

Before closing the meeting, ask your team:

If anything big comes up, setup another call to discuss how to improve your retros.

6. Post-retro Activities