How to Run a Retrospective for a Design Team

Retrospectives are typically seen in agile and scrum environments and are away for an entire team to come together and reflect on the latest increment of work and talk about what went well and what could be improved. But retrospectives can be used for any team and aren’t just limited to scrum teams. If your team struggles with the same issues over and over, a role or multiple roles feel excluded from the process, or your team doesn’t meet on a regular basis but needs to, you might benefit from a retrospective. There are four key components to running a retrospective. The first is setting expectations.

Everyone on the team should participate and be reminded that the goal of this meeting is to improve as a team, give everyone sticky notes to write down their ideas anonymously, or if your team is comfortable with open discussion, you can go around the room person by person. If your team has remote members, have everyone turn their video on and use software that has live editing capabilities so everyone can be present in real time once expectations have been set. The second component of a retrospective is discussing what went well. These are things that propelled the team forward during the sprint. You can acknowledge accomplishments of team members, but be genuine and be brief as we don’t want the entire meeting to focus around accomplishments of individuals, but rather the accomplishments of the team as a whole. The third component is discussing what could be improved. Think about what you want less of for next sprint or what was lacking during this sprint. Don’t use personal attacks or blame a specific person or role. Think about things that slowed the team down or made communication difficult. Once you’ve talked about what went well and what can be improved, it’s time to create an action plan. The fourth and most important component of retrospectives. What specific things can your team do to address the improvements that were discussed? This is the perfect time to pitch a new technique as an experiment to see if it will help improve your process. Once the action items are identified, the team takes ownership and assigns a due date to each one.

Focus on action items that can realistically be solved in a sprint. And if you can’t break a large item down into smaller action items so you can make progress across multiple sprints at your next retrospective follow up on the action plan, you made cross off items that are completed and carry over the ones that weren’t to your next sprints. Action Plan retrospectives are a dedicated time to come together and collaboratively improve your team’s process. Using this time effectively is the first step toward better sprints.

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