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How to Run Retrospective Meetings that Aren't Pointless

How many hours are lost to unproductive or pointless meetings? According to a survey from Get a Klu, a consulting and coaching firm, professionals lose 31 hours per month to unproductive meetings. That's why it's crucial to identify the meetings you need to hold, and without a doubt, a sprint retro meeting should be one of them.

When it comes to how to run a retrospective, it's not complicated, but there are a few pointers you'll need to keep in mind if you want to run one successfully. Apart from this, we'll cover the best agile retro tools to use to structure your retro meeting agenda. By the end of this article, you'll be confident to run an effective retro that is productive and won't waste anyone's time.

Why Retrospective Is Important in Agile

"Hindsight is always 20/20."

This quote might be a cliche when it comes to emphasizing the importance of reviewing and learning from the past, but it's the best way to describe the importance of running retro meetings. First, they give the team time to review their performance and understand their strengths and weaknesses. Second, these retro meetings help identify potential challenges or retrospective issues based on experience, and therefore, ensure team members are more equipped to prepare for what may come up. Lastly, these retro recaps ensure that everyone continues improving with each sprint.

Sprint Review vs. Retrospective

Okay, so you're ready to start facilitating a retro meeting for your team, but what about a sprint review? Is a sprint review meeting one of the weekly retrospective types?

Sprint Review

A sprint review talks about the specific features and story points delivered in a sprint, and mainly answers the question: What was done?

Sometimes, you might even include other stakeholders in the meeting. For example, the Sales or Marketing team could join the review, especially if there are relevant features to boost sales.

Retrospective Meeting

The retrospective meaning is fairly simple to understand, yet many leaders don't quite grasp it fully. This type of meeting is all about team dynamics and performance and aims to address the question, 'How did we do?'

Other teams, such as the Marketing Team, often hold their retro meetings at the end of a campaign or a project. The goal is the same: to understand the team's performance and improve the results of the next campaign.

Agile Retrospective Format

There are several agile retro formats that you can work from and adapt to your team's requirements. It can be as simple as doing a "Start, Stop, and Continue" discussion. Or, you can introduce a bit of fun and creativity by following the Three Little Pigs format.

Stop, Start, Continue

This retro meeting format asks: What should the team stop doing? Are there any new ideas or processes that the team can implement? What about things that went well that need to be continued in the next sprint?

Three Little Pigs

It's the same principle as Stop, Start, Continue but with a cartoonish twist. The team draws the famous three houses in the story and puts their answers to the following questions, in the corresponding houses:

  • House of Bricks - What went well?
  • House of Straw - What could be improved?
  • House of Sticks - Which areas are the weakest?

You can learn more about other unique retro agile formats on Cprime, a consulting firm that provides companies with agile solutions.

How to Run a Virtual Retrospective

If you're asking how do you conduct a good retrospective? Or, perhaps, how do I run a virtual retro meeting, don't sweat it, it's almost the same as running it in person. The main difference is the retrospective tools used for remote teams. For example, you'll need Zoom to manage the discussion, if you choose to run your meeting synchronously, and a whiteboard tool like Lucidspark to manage the feedback before the call asynchronously.

A Few Tips in Running Effective Virtual Retrospective Meetings

  1. Spend time gathering feedback before the meeting. This is when white board tools can come in handy.
  2. Or use a collaboration document to collect feedback asynchronously and then use a retrospective meeting template to work on your agenda before the meeting.
  3. Start with an ice breaker. It could be an interactive poll or a fun trivia game about the stats of the sprint.
  4. Make sure to engage with everyone and make them feel heard.
  5. Discuss the feedback and agree on the next steps, especially the improvements that need to be implemented.

How to Do a Project Retrospective

Earlier, we talked about how other teams, such as Marketing or Sales, can run their review meetings, which can be labeled as project retros. It follows the same structure as the development team's retro, but the main difference is that they are reviewing a project instead of a sprint. A sprint is something that happens regularly, usually every two weeks. On the other hand, a project isn't typically recurring and often is longer than two weeks.

Do you know how to tell in your retrospective what went well? Here are a few questions to ask, to find out.

  • What were the expectations at the start of the project?
  • What were the results and realities of the project?
  • Why did we get those results?
  • How are we going to improve next time if we run the same project?

Knowing what went well and what could be improved is crucial to improving future sprints.

What to Say in Sprint Retrospectives

You pretty much have the structure nailed down by now. But, a few 'what to say in retrospective meeting examples', are sure to help kick off your meeting. Running a retro could be overwhelming. But when you use a meeting retro template, it can save you a lot of time preparing the agenda.

Whether you're doing a sprint or project retrospective as a development or marketing team, here are a few of the things you should speak about:

  • What's one word to describe your experience?
  • What are the wins that we can celebrate?
  • What's the main thing you've learned?

Sprint Retrospective Examples

Are you confident with how to run a successful retrospective meeting now? If so, then it's time to kick them off. The easiest and quickest way to get started is with a Sprint Retrospective Template example, which includes your complete Scrum retro agenda and sprint retrospective example points. With a tool like Complish, you can run a sprint or project retro asynchronously, which is ideal for distributed teams.

Online Retrospective Tools to Run Your Retrospectives

Which among the following is the recommended way to run retrospectives? Besides asynchronous meeting tools like Complish, you can also use other fun tools. Here are just a few:

TeamMood

Want to understand how your team truly feels at a glance? TeamMood helps you gain insight into your teams' feelings about the sprint and presents them in visual charts.

TeamRetro

TeamRetro provides a single list of action items that can be tracked for each meeting and is best suited for enterprise-level teams.

Mural

Remember the Three Little Pigs format? You can easily run it on Mural, a cloud-based white board tool. You can use their existing templates or create your own Three Little Pigs theme.

Knowing how to run a retrospective that is efficient and productive is one of the best skills that any team could master. And just like any skill, the more you do it, the better you get at it.

Which agile retrospective tools for distributed teams have you used from this blog post? Let us know by sharing this post on social and tag us in the comments. And, if you're looking to run fewer, better meetings, then the best place to start is with a meeting template.