Communicating with Your Team: Retrospectives

In my last post, I wrote about communicating with your team through stand-ups. Today, I want to talk about retrospectives. What are they? How should they be implemented? What are the pros and cons of this communication method?

Retrospectives

What are they?

By definition, the word “retrospective” means to look back on a past event or situation, and that’s precisely what this communication method is all about. Similar to the concept of stand-up meetings, retrospectives come out of the Agile software development strategy but are useful to all team. The goal of these meetings is to debrief at the end of each development cycle; typically a sprint or whatever release cycle your agency chooses to use.

How do they work?

A retrospective is a gathering of all team members involved in project work. Each meeting typically lasts 30 minutes and should be held at the end of every development cycle. The following three questions are posed to the group at each meeting:

  1. What went well?
  2. What did not work well?
  3. What could the team do differently to improve?

The retrospective can be structured in many ways, but here is a loose agenda:

  • Gathering progress (10 mins) – What did the team accomplish this cycle?
  • Gain understanding (10 mins) – What went well? When was the team most productive? What did not work well? What roadblocks occurred? Where did processes break down?
  • Plan moving forward (10 mins) – What are the highest priorities for the next cycle? How can processes be improved? What will remove roadblocks and maintain productivity?

What are the pros and cons of this communication method?

Pros

  • Retrospectives allow the team to step away from grinding through work and consider how to work better, both individually and as a team.
  • All team members are given a chance to express their opinions and management is able to hear about their work and general progress of the project.
  • The exercise strengthens the team by allowing them to voice their concerns and work through areas of conflict in a healthy group setting.

Cons

  • Without attendance and engagement from the entire team, these meetings will be less productive. Attendance to retrospectives should be mandatory for all team members.
  • Due to the group nature of these meetings, expressive individuals may tend to be more vocal than those that are more internalized processors. Encourage everyone to provide input.
  • Gained knowledge is valuable, but without action it’s worthless. It’s critical to take the feedback from each retrospective and adjust processes for the next development cycle.

Retrospectives are a valuable practice for all successful software teams. They are an excellent opportunity to give the team a voice in how the agency executes its work in the best possible way.

In my next post, I’ll be discussing 1-on-1s, how they work, and the pros and cons of implementing them into your team communication strategy.

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