A retrospective is an important activity that helps teams succeed. It provides an avenue for teams to learn and improve as they reflect on previous and present iterations. This is easy to achieve when you are handling a face-to-face retrospective wherein all members of your team are in the same room brainstorming ideas and engaging in a productive discussion. It’s a whole new challenge to hold a productive retrospective when you have a remote team. You can overcome the challenges faced with this list of retrospective ideas for remote teams.
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Top Retrospective Ideas for Remote Teams
The physical location of every member of your team should never be a hindrance to the success of your team. Even when each individual is working remotely, you can continue to seek out improvements.
While there are obvious challenges to a remote retrospective, there is nothing that proper planning cannot overcome. Use this guide to help you develop a fun and successful remote retrospective with your team.
Define Your Focus
Retrospectives for remote teams are an opportunity to build a connection with the members of the team and to be productive in doing so. However, this often gets lost due to the distributed nature of the environment with remote work.
Before you start, it is important to clearly define your agenda for the retrospective. Since these are typically short meetings, you want to be able to target issues that you have specified for a given session.
Speaking in front of a computer and seeing other people’s faces on a Zoom screen is very different from when you are in the room with the rest of the team. Being in that confined space (such as a meeting room) can make it easier to focus on the discussion at hand. When you are discussing via Zoom, there are many ways to get distracted and for team members to lose their focus on the agenda.
There are creative ways to go about it. You can give each team member a survey prior to your retrospective. You can set them as anonymous. Help your team choose what the main topic of your retrospective is so you can address what the team feels is the most urgent concern.
You can also use any other application that your team is currently using to survey or poll them about their chosen topics. If you can, focus on one topic per retrospective session so that you can really give each topic the attention it deserves.
Choose the Ideal Format
There are several agile retrospective formats that are available to choose from. Make sure you figure out which format is the best according to your team.
Here are a few questions that will help you pick out the best format among the variety of options:
- What is the current team mindset? If the team is facing a negative issue, you can opt for a format that is light-hearted and positive in nature.
- How long has the remote team been working together? The familiarity among the team members is crucial when choosing the right format for the retrospective, if you want to succeed with it.
- What is the focus for this retrospective? There are specific formats that are aimed at addressing certain issues, such as collaboration, alignment, processes, and resources.
It takes a bit of experimentation to choose the right format for your remote team. And that is okay, because your goal is to learn and improve. The process of selecting the right format is also part of the learning process.
Use the Right Tools
The tools you use are crucial in a remote retrospective because it is basically the platform through which you communicate with your team. There are a number of tools out there that makes it easy to connect with your team, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Slack.
Essentially, you want a tool or application that has audio and video capabilities. In addition, you should also have a “room” where every team member can share their comments, notes, and other essential documents. The type of retrospective you are having should dictate the type of tool you are going to use.
Tools like Miro or Mural are recommended for teams that need to draw or create visual representations. Meanwhile, a tool like Neuro is the best option for those that need a more structured remote retrospective.
Make it Fun and Engaging
The most effective retrospectives are the ones that allow team members to feel relaxed and connected. Try to keep it light-hearted, even when you are trying to achieve your agenda. Make sure everyone is comfortable and never forget to do a safety check first. You want every member to feel safe and comfortable enough to participate and engage.
Have you ever tried the virtual backgrounds on Zoom? Experiment with those and encourage everyone on the team to do so. It is a small detail, but it helps to break the ice. You can even come up with a theme for each session and everyone can choose a background based on that theme.
You can also add polls and surveys at the end of each retrospective session. Not only will this encourage team members to be engaged throughout, but it is also a great way to gain input that could improve your next session.
Mistakes to Avoid When Running a Remote Retrospective
While it is important to focus on retrospective ideas for remote teams that promote success, it is also important to identify potential challenges. Your ability to avoid the mistakes that could inhibit your success will not only make your remote retrospective more fun, but also enjoy more success in the long run.
- Putting your retrospective on hold when one of the team members lag behind. You should never cancel your retrospective for the sake of one person who failed in the completion of assigned action teams within the designated time frame. There is a reason why retrospectives are timed; the time you spend on it is considered an investment for the organization. Make everyone accountable by showing up with something to report back on.
- Lack of follow-through. When you reach a shared decision during your retrospective, it is important to follow through on that decision with actions. Otherwise, you will never accomplish anything if you just plan without an accompanying action.
- Using the retrospective as a complaint platform. This should be looked at as an opportunity to provide effective and practical solutions to problems that arise. There should be room for venting or complaints.
You might be grappling with the challenges of handling a remote team, much more than with holding a successful retrospective, hopefully the tips above give you the ideas you need to do it with more confidence. Given the potential benefits of running a retrospective (especially with a remote team), it is worth the effort and planning to make it run smoothly.
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