Agile Retrospectives in remote teams.

Agile Retrospectives in remote teams.

This post is based on Ben Linders' blog

Agile Retrospectives in remote teams

When working with remote #Agile teams, even though the team can't gather in one location, you still want to have efficient and valuable Agile Retrospectives to get yourself in the way of continuous development.
We've already written about the challenges and opportunities of distributed #Agile software & we've even interviewed top-notch #Agile groundbreakers and thought-leaders like Diana Larsen, Heidi Araya, Linda Rising & Many more. During that time we've collected a series of points to have in consideration for running Agile Retrospectives in remote teams.

Collaboration tools

You may not have a physical board available for your remote team, which is actually a pretty good tool for Retrospectives, but you can use an online Retrospective template, or a digital board. Whatever works best. Even a Google Docs will do the trick for experienced teams.

During the retrospective session, you'll need to use a video conference tool, like Skype or Hangout so that the team members can hear and see each other (this is important).
As a whiteboard, you'll need a collaborative real-time editor like Google Docs or Microsoft OneDrive. If you're using Atlassian's products, you can take advantage of the Agile Retrospectives for Confluence app (Or the Jira version if your team uses Jira), a great real-time collaboration tool built specifically to have Retrospectives in remote teams.
The real-time editor or collaboration tool of your choice is used to share the questions with the team members, keep the conversation on track, and collect their answers, define the action items and assign an owner.

Agile Retrospectives template for Confluence

How to do a remote retrospective

Before the meeting, the facilitator selects the questions to be used in the retrospective according to the custom retrospective format they decide to go for. These questions are entered into the selected Retrospective collaboration tool and the document link is shared with all team members before the retrospective.

The tool should allow the team to input their opinions (Both Agile Retrospectives for Confluence and the Jira Version, have an anonymous option). Although team members can either add their answers to the questions before or during the meeting, best practice dictates to do so at the same time.

The facilitator will set up a group call. Then, he will allow time at the start of the meeting for team members time to brainstorm and enter their answers in the document.

When all the opinions are on the board, the team discusses. Everybody should have an understanding of all of the ideas. Now the team needs to vote and decide which are the action items that they think are the highest priority and which are they going to commit to work on, and assign an owner for the action item (not really who's doing the work, but whose responsibility is to make sure that the work gets done).

The resulting 'document' serves as a reference for the team. Being it always visible, it gives transparency and accountability over the resulting action items. If you used Agile Retrospectives for Confluence, the results of the Retrospective and its assignees, as well as the progress on the task will be always visible for the entire team in the Retrospective's Confluence page. If you used Agile Retrospectives for Jira, a record will always be available inside each Jira Project.

Custom Agile Retrospective template for Confluence

Questions for a remote retrospective

The most important questions for a team that is working remotely are those related to team communication, the collaboration tools that are used, bonding while being remotes, etc. Questions related to working as a remote team and overcoming the limitations. Of course, you'll also discuss other issues.

These are some sample questions that you should ask the team every now & then:

  • What do you like/love/lack about our team and the way that we work together?
  • How can we do to improve collaboration, communication, and co-working in the team?
  • How do you feel about the tools that we are using?
  • Do the tools support collaboration sufficiently?
  • What have you learned working with this dispersed team?
  • If there is one thing that you could change, what would it be?

These questions help dispersed teams to discuss their way of working and find better ways to collaborate and deliver value to their customers.

Want to learn how to do #Agile retrospectives?

Agile Retrospectives are great for teams to improve their work and is the key activity in the search for continuous improvement. A great Retrospective is all about the outputs of the meeting. You need to define clear action items and assign an owner to each one.

Improve your remote team's Retrospectives by using the Agile Retrospectives for Confluence add-on. There's a free trial!

Software Development Tools

Trying to improve your #Agile practices? OR are you getting started with Agile? Are you in a remote team? Check out our products for Agile teams at SoftwareDevTools. We focus on making agile ceremonies more effective and easier to adopt for remote teams.

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