Team Changes

In the last two months, my team doubled in size (kinda feels like I saw it somewhere already ;)). We needed to get an alignment on how we want to work together. So we had “Awesomeness Retrospective” to create a shared team vision and decide on the first steps to get there.

Team Vision is up to The Team

We have a team of 7 developers (myself included, but now I’m “the manager” so I count for like 1/4 developer ;)). And we closely work with Product Manager and Project Manager. All of us were present which added a bit of a twist and different points of view.

The team is very young and I felt like I’m the one speaking most (and too much) during the retrospectives. My objective was to create an environment where they want to work and according to their ideas. I wanted to leave it all to them.

Agenda

Here’s what I came up with (with help of Retromat & Agile Retrospectives book):

  1. Setting the stage
    Check-in (round-robin) (5 mins)
    In a word or two, what are your hopes for the retrospective?
    Working Agreements (conversation in pairs) (10 mins)
  2. Gathering data
    The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (individually) (20-25 mins)
  3. Doughnut Break (10 mins)
    Get the coffee/tea and help yourself to the doughnut (the doughnut delivery failed last minute so we had to settle for croissants)
  4. Generating Insights
    The Awesome Team – creating posters (2 teams 4-ppl/team) (20)
    Brainwriting (10) the same teams: What actions should we take to improve?
  5. Deciding what to do
    SMART goals (5mins) -> individually
    Merge (10) -> using the SMART goals from previous step form pairs to everyone together
  6. Closing the Retrospective
    +/Delta (round-robin) (5 mins)

Preparation

Yup, preparing an Agenda is only half of the work. So:

  • set up the room beforehand!
    • put paper/flipchart pages on the walls around the room
    • put agenda somewhere where ppl can see it (I used a TV to show it)
    • move tables to the side and make a circle out of chairs (very important!)
    • have tables accessible/handy for creating poster & writing activities
  • get snacks for the break that everyone in the team can eat (I had someone who can’t have gluten-free food so I needed to order gluten-free doughnuts -> the company bailed on me 10 minutes before delivery time so one team member couldn’t get a treat 😦 please learn on my mistake)
  • get all the writing materials (sharpies, pens, pencils, stickies, poster paper, etc.)
  • get something you can use as a timer that everyone can also see. I used tablet coz my phone sucks but phone will do. Or google timer 😉

Keep tabs on the time

Not everything goes as planned

We planned to spend 2h on that retrospective. We had a bit of a build issue before so we decided to wait a few minutes to let everyone cool down.

The part before the break took less time then I predicted and Merge took much more (like 15 mins). I decided to shorten the time required for creating the poster to 15 mins (10 mins creating + 2/team to present).

Observe team’s engagement

In few exercises, the team’s conversations stopped earlier then pre-set time.  In Merge, when we hit the first timebox mark the conversations where still very lively so I extended the time a few more minutes.

You need to make a judgment call here. If the team’s quiet or starts talking about unrelated topics it means time’s up. If they are still engaged you may need to extend.

That’s why it’s very important to observe and have some slack time in case you go overtime. Another idea mentioned in “Agile retrospectives” is to plan two exercises per task/topic/stage: longer & shorter one in case you need to swap. In my case shortening up The Time needed for creating poster helped.

Thank the team for the engagement and time spent once you’re done.

The team just spent two hours in a meeting room. Usually, when I think about a two-hour meeting I seriously question if there’s a need for that. Thank the team for their time (our time is valuable).

Thank the team for the engagement too. (My team was super engaged and I really appreciated it. It’s important to let them know)

Wrap Up & Feedback

The team especially liked that we came up with actions and some of them mentioned that maybe 2 action items weren’t enough (we had to exclude a couple of good ideas when we were “merging” them).

I, as a facilitator, reached my objective to have the team create their own vision without my input. All I needed to do was get out of their way and keep tabs on the time.

I think the retrospective was pretty effective. We ended up having two SMART goals assigned to two “owners” (per what we decided on while setting up working agreements) that will help us improve moving forward. I believe the team had fun. I feel like all of them were engaged and participated actively in the conversations. However, you can’t tell till you get the feedback. That’s why I used +/Delta. It’s important to know if it wasn’t a waste of time and how you can improve next time.

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