Making retrospectives more fun

I’m fortunate enough to work on an experienced team where we all have leadership qualities.

How do we make the most of it? One answer is retrospectives.

Retrospectives give everyone a voice: what do they think is the single most important challenge or opportunity facing the team.

For example:

  • the challenge of maintaining lots of environments
  • the opportunity of hot-desking – if everyone had a laptop
  • trying a new javascript library

The problem with retrospectives

Retrospectives are sometimes seen as a chore. At Metro, we’re a bit prescriptive. People are expected to say one thing that went well, one thing that didn’t go well, and (optionally) a topic for further discussion.

I suspect that this distracts from the real purpose of retrospectives.

Retrospectives 2.0

What if people just answer one question: What is the single most important challenge or opportunity facing the team?

How to make your point compelling

Make it a one-minute story.

1. Context (who, when, etc). Last week i was working on news feed for the redesign.

2a. Problem. I was having real problems uploading from Heroku to S3. I was banging my head against it for hours.

2b. Problem: what was tried? I read all the documentation and everything on Stack Overflow.

3a. Outcome. Hoque saw my frustration and paired up with me. We managed to figure it out in 10 minutes – it was a config issue but i’d been focused on the code.

3b. Outcome: lesson. Pairing is so much quicker – it stops you going down blind alleys. It avoids so much frustration.

It’s good to include emotion in the story!

How to make your point compelling, part 2

Focus on the story, not suggesting a course of action.

Above, for example, the story ended with the lesson “pairing is good”. It didn’t end with “we should all pair up more”.


The other way to make retrospectives more fun? Bring biscuits!

For more background on retrospectives, check out my previous post.


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