Everyone’s Perspective is Key in Retrospectives
In the early 20th century, an Architect and an Engineer entered a fancy hotel with a roll of blueprints to investigate how to add an elevator to the building. As they were measuring and planning where to knock holes in walls, the Janitor walked up and asked what they were doing. They told him that they would be installing a new elevator in the building. The Janitor quipped, “That’s gonna make quite a mess.” Both the Architect and the Engineer assured the Janitor that he would get help cleaning up after they were finished. The Janitor scoffed: “I don’t know why you want to go through all that trouble. If it were me I’d put the elevator on the outside of the building and save the fuss.” The Engineer looked at the Architect and they were dumbstruck–and the elevator on the outside of a building was born.
People with a different perspective can come up with some incredible ideas. Above is an example of an incredible idea, which goes to show that everyone’s inputs are equally important. Even though most of us understand this well, sometimes during retrospective meetings, the Scrum Master or Facilitator fails to have all participants share their thoughts. Not everyone in the team is an extrovert or feels secure enough to share individual opinions in front of others. So the onus lies on the Facilitator of the retrospective meeting to ensure everyone’s perspective is taken.
Below are 5 tips on how to take everyone’s perspective in a retrospective meeting:
Tip#1: Ensure a comfortable setup
Whether doing retrospective with co-located team or a remote team, it’s important to have a meeting setup, which instills comfort for the participants. Personally, I have seen retrospectives done over video conference where some participants are not visible on the screen, which makes it uncomfortable for some to speak while not being visible. Ideally, retrospectives should not include anyone who is not going to contribute. Some members could possibly feel uncomfortable speaking in front of an audience who are not part of the team or does not have anything to contribute in the meeting.
Tip#2: Share all relevant data ahead of time
Provide an opportunity for participants to be prepared for the retrospective meeting. Normally the tool provides visibility of the goals for a sprint or a release and the actual deliveries. It helps to summarize what was planned, what was achieved and other relevant details in the agenda so that the participants can come prepared with their thoughts to share. It also helps to share the status on action items ahead of time and what has been accomplishment in terms of continuous improvement from the lessons learned from the past retrospective meetings.
Tip#3: Encourage participants to share thoughts without interruption
We understand that not all technically skilled resources have good soft skills and some struggle to take time to explain their view point. It’s important to time box but at the same time a good Facilitator understands how to encourage participants to share their perspective. A Facilitator can ensure that someone is actively taking notes for future reference as needed. The Facilitator can also help in ensuring that technical details are understood by the non-technical participants.
Tip#4: Facilitator should be unbiased
The Facilitator should direct the conversations to encourage participants remain focused on the objective of the retrospective and ensuring that thoughts are challenged as needed and not the people. No side conversations or comments should be encouraged while a participant is sharing thoughts. The Facilitator should ensure that participants’ thoughts are respected and people can disagree without being disagreeable.
Tip#5: Encourage consensus on action items
The Facilitator should ensure that there is a consensus on actionable items and identify the owner of the respective action item before wrapping up the meeting. Having a consensus encourages participants to think for themselves as a team. The Facilitator should also summarize main points discussed in the meeting and later follow up with an email or publish in a tool including meeting minutes.
The best teamwork comes from the team members who are working independently but toward one goal in unison and working in an environment where everyone’s perspective is encouraged, heard and respected.