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Learning how to conduct better retrospective

Vicknesh Shanmugam September 13, 2023

How running this session felt:

Since I've conducted a few retrospectives before, I was comfortable running the retrospective. Also due to the topic of the retrospective that's quite popular within my team, I was expecting more feedback from my team members. While I'm familiar with how to conduct a retrospective, I tried to use the information that I learned from the Team retrospective playbook: the https://www.atlassian.com/team-playbook/plays/retrospective. I felt like some suggestions such as informing all participants of how the retrospective will be conducted is a good suggestions so I tried to incorporate that into the way I ran my retrospective.

 

What went well:

I feel the retrospective that I conducted went well and participants gave multiple feedback. All the participants were also quite open with their feedback.

 

What I might try differently next time:

Due to many feedback that was shared and it took quite a bit of time to go over each piece of feedback, I was not able to spend more time asking what each participant thought about others' feedback.

Another improvement that I would make is to clarify that we will be creating action items on an individual basis based on the feedback gathered. I did not take the time to clarify this due to time constraint 

 

Tips for first-time facilitators:

1. Before starting the retrospective, start the session with a conversation just to break the ice. That will help everyone to be a bit more comfortable before everyone starts talking about "serious points".

2. Do go through the reading materials at https://www.atlassian.com/team-playbook/plays/retrospective. There are many suggestions that are useful for both new and experienced facilitators.

3. Watch some retrospective videos. That will give some idea of the flow of the retrospective.

4. Recommend everyone to share their thought freely and let everyone know that each piece of feedback is important.

4 comments

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Andy Gladstone
Community Leader
Community Leader
Community Leaders are connectors, ambassadors, and mentors. On the online community, they serve as thought leaders, product experts, and moderators.
September 14, 2023

@Vicknesh Shanmugam welcome to the Atlassian Community. Thanks for sharing this post. You mention you have run retrospectives before, what compelled you to publish a discussion about it at this time?

Christine P. Dela Rosa
Atlassian Team
Atlassian Team members are employees working across the company in a wide variety of roles.
September 14, 2023

I like that you observed opportunities to do things differently the next go around, even though you've run Retros before. That's a good note for all of us, that watching how other people facilitate or reflecting on your own experience is helpful for first-timers and veterans alike!

Summer_Hogan
Community Leader
Community Leader
Community Leaders are connectors, ambassadors, and mentors. On the online community, they serve as thought leaders, product experts, and moderators.
September 15, 2023

@Vicknesh Shanmugam Welcome to the community! Thank you for sharing these best practices. have you ever used https://easyretro.io/? It's an awesome tool that adds a little more fun into the retro. They have some really great ideas at https://easyretro.io/retrospective-ideas/. I recently tried the sailboat retro for an issue we were having where we were being held back. This site is so valuable to me! Take a look! 

Bill Sheboy
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October 31, 2023

Hi @Vicknesh Shanmugam -- Welcome to the Atlassian Community!

Some things I have learned to build up knowledge, skills, and experience with retrospectives:

  • Observe other retrospectives
    • Watching how others facilitate retros can reveal what works for one team may not succeed with others, different techniques (or ways of doing the same technique), human interaction skills, etc.
  • Practice
    • Seek opportunities to facilitate retrospectives, not just for your primary team but for others asking for help
  • Find a mentor in your company
    • Working with others to build skills is very valuable, including pairing on facilitation
  • Books!
    • Retrospectives originated from things like after-action reviews and other such sessions.  Learning what has evolved over time in the practices, and different techniques, may require more study than may be found in online posts or videos.  Here are some good, short books on the topics:
    • Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great, by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen
    • Agile Coaching, by Rachel Davies and Liz Sedley

Kind regards,
Bill

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