Three months into working with my new Leighton family as Scrum Master, and I have experienced what most Agile Scrum teams will face…the dreaded Retrospective Groundhog Day (*cue dramatic music*).

"Tell me what went well, what didn’t go well, what puzzles you…"

Sound familiar? It’s a tried and tested method, and it works well, but there’s only so many times you can use that before people get bored. A good Scrum Master will think about how they can mix things up a little and invigorate the Retro so it doesn’t become a chore (cake does help!). This blog will share how we try new things in our Retros and report on what worked, what didn’t, and why.

The Retrospective is a very important ceremony for a Scrum team to reflect on the previous sprint, understand where they could improve or take actions to mitigate repeating the same problems and to celebrate what they have achieved. It is also a great place to just take a breath and have a bit of fun as a team.

We are an average-sized Scrum team working across multiple locations, mainly on-site at British Airways in Newcastle with our colleagues making the effort to come up from London for our Sprint Retro and Planning, and I realised we had to make their journey worth it! Last sprint, we changed how we run our Retros…instead of the team writing up their ‘What Went Well’s’ and handing them to me to read out, I asked the team to give their own feedback to the team. This small change seemed to give new life to the Retro and I wish I had done it sooner!

close up of post-it notes on wall

Today, we held our Sprint 6 Retrospective with a teeny tiny hint of a Star Wars theme ahead of May the 4th this Friday- we started with each attendee describing the previous sprint/team in one word. Our favourite was “MI6” as our Product Owner used to fondly describe our 4 developers and 2 testers, and the great code investigative work they had been doing.

We had a mixture of positive words to describe how well we worked together, and nods to the curve balls (things that draw away from day to day work) we have dealt with. Overall it was a great little ice breaker and gave everyone a chance to have their say. I then asked the team to jot down on Post-Its things that held us back or slowed us down (The Dark Side) and things that gave us momentum to move forward and kept us feeling positive and hopeful (The Rebel Alliance).

The team had loads of useful insights into what drew them away from their day to day work (we know them as curve balls), but also talked about all the things we had achieved. This included code walk-throughs, becoming stronger together as a team, and how quickly we reacted to change.

We reviewed our actions from the last Retro and added new actions (and most importantly agreed owners!). Lastly, we held a “High-five” this involved everyone voting using up to five fingers to say how well the retro had went. Anyone with less than a five told me how I could have made it better for them-this week which was mostly around doing something a bit different and crazy next time and adding a LOT more cheesiness (which I am very happy about). We also gently persuaded one of our Developers into being the designated Retro treat-provider (thanks Josh!).

Join me in two weeks to hear how we got on in our Sprint 7 Retrospective…Spoiler: it’s going to be very different to anything we have done previously!