Following on from my blog post about some observations about the actions that we create in retrospectives I’ve also noticed some general ways that retrospectives might not end up being as useful as we’d hope.
Having a manager facilitating
While having the manager of the team facilitating the retrospective isn’t a problem in itself I think it’s useful to remember that in this context they aren’t in that role anymore.
I’ve noticed that there can be a tendency for people to direct any comments they make during the retrospective towards the manager, thereby excluding others from the conversation.
Having the facilitator call out their role at the beginning of the retrospective and encourage participants to address any comments to the group can help to counter this situation.
Another closely related pattern is that of the facilitator participating in the retrospective and it’s easy to see why it happens since if the facilitator is part of the team then they probably have some opinions that they want to share as well.
Unfortunately what I’ve noticed happen is that they end up giving their opinion on the points made by others and if they have an opposing opinion to someone then it can easily discourage that person from participating any more.
One way to get around this problem is to have an external facilitator and the other is for the facilitator to realise that their role in this meeting is to facilitate and keep their opinion to themself!
Another common problem I’ve seen is the attempt to try and combine the collecting and analysing of data for the iteration.
I find that the problem with doing this is that we can easily end up belittling people’s observations if they get analysed and dismissed without being written up on the whiteboard.
Collecting all the data as one activity and then working through it after everyone’s had a chance to make their contribution is a much more effective way to do it.
Focusing on things out of the team’s control
While it’s useful to identify things that are going wrong which are out of our control it can quickly get very boring for everyone if those things get brought up repeatedly.
Quite often we don’t have the ability to address some things straight away but once we’ve gained a bit more trust we might get the chance to in future.
We’ve sometimes had retrospectives where you were only allowed to bring up things which could be addressed by the people in the room and this worked reasonably well.
It is still useful to remember which things we want to try and chance but can’t at the moment so that we can try again in a couple of months time.