My friend Jeremy wrote an excellent post about spicing up retrospectives. I started writing this up as a comment to post there but it got a little long, so thought I’d break it out as a blog post.

Jeremy’s experiences mirror mine exactly from running and participating in many retros over the years. Actively making sure they’re not getting routine and becoming an after thought is an absolute must. Here’s a few additional tips we use to run, spice up, and management retros:

  • Retro bag: We keep a small bag in the office filled with post-its, sharpies, markers, bluetack, etc, to make retro facilitator’s lives easier - they can just grab and go. We also have a print copy of Jeremy’s linked retr-o-mat in it.
  • Facilitator picker: A small internal app which lets team enter their retro info and randomly select someone to facilitate. It favours those who haven’t done one recently and are available for the needed time span. Sure saves on walking around and asking for a facilitator!
  • Cross-company retros: We’ve gotten great value out of doing larger cross-company retros after big projects. These are larger (upwards of 20 people) representing as many teams involved as possible (developers, systems, product owners, management, sales, client ops, etc). We used the mail box technique Jeremy mentioned and had attendees generate ideas beforehand to get everything in, limiting the retro to 1.5 hours. Making sure everyone knew the prime directive was also a must, as many hadn’t been involved in retro’s before. Actions that came out ended up being for future similar projects, and were assigned to a team to champion. Sure enough they came in very handy a few months later as we embarked on a similarly large project.
  • Retro ideas: (don’t remember were I got these, but they’re not original!)
    1. Only listing 3 of the good things that happened in a given period. At first I didn’t think focusing purely on the good would result in any actionable outcomes, but the perspective brought about some interesting ideas
    2. Making a “treasure map” of the retro time period, with some members adding a “mountain of tech debt”, “bog of infrastructure”, and “sunny beach of automation”. Fun take on the situation to get at new insights
    3. Amazon reviews of the period with a star rating and “customer feedback”
    4. I’m excited to try out story cubes at the next retro I run - sounds good!