Turn Your Retrospective Into a Celebration

A peer of mine (who wishes to remain anonymous) has been a Scrum Master for a number of years and previously worked at a company that valued organizational agility and agile methods. Unfortunately, her role ended but was able to find another position with a company that has been wanting to be “agile” for some time.

This company likes the thought of Scrum, but putting it into practice has been hindered by slow adapting managers, stakeholders and a few team members. One of the goals of bringing her in, though, was to fully implement Scrum and obtain buy-in at all levels. Anyone who’s gone through that type of transformation before knows it’s easier said than done (way easier!).

But finally, after a few months, she’s been making progress. Her approach was simple on the surface, but took a lot of preparation for her to implement. Keep it simple for managers and stakeholders by maximizing their input while minimizing their time commitment. Keep teams focused on their work without focusing on the process that supports success. And most important, combine the sprint reviews and retrospectives into one meeting, which she labeled the “Sprint Party!”

Usually, sprint reviews and retrospectives are a couple different meetings.

But what caught me about her approach made it not only informative, but fun. “Even if we didn’t get everything done in the sprint we planned for, we still made progress, and for that we celebrate. We highlight what we did and get everyone excited for what’s to come. Everyone’s invited and everyone is asked to participate.”

Because she has zero budget outside of the work to be done, she prepares food for every one of these meetings. Always food. No exception. And always have soda, because developers love drinking caffeine and product owners usually go for the diet pops (an observation she caught that I’ve never seen).

Every meeting has the same format; start with a demo of what got done in the sprint, what didn’t, and show trends and stats of what got completed vs. what didn’t over the course of all sprint cycles (they’re currently at an 80% completion rate per sprint). During the demo, there must be at least one thing to applaud about. For her, applause for something done or milestone achieved cuts through tension of what didn’t get accomplished.

Then everyone, including product owners, team members, managers and/or other stakeholders participate in the retrospective. Everyone is asked about what INTERACTIONS between team members went well first. Because we’re people, she focuses on the communications between everyone and highlights the good so everyone can learn what’s worked well. Then she moves into what can be enhanced in communication, then finally into process feedback. At the end of the meeting, she finds one more thing to applaud about so everyone leaves with a sense of excitement and they actually look forward to coming to this meeting again.

Though this method will not work for everyone, it works for her and the company she’s with. Team members, product owners and functional managers have bought into it. The meeting brings people together and builds relationships. In the end, she’s built excitement in bringing everyone together. Everyone loves a celebration!

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