Retrospectives in Remote Teams

RemoteRetrospectiveWhen you are working with an agile team where people are not co-located you still want to do valuable agile retrospectives. Since gathering everybody in one location for the retrospective is not feasible, you need to take a different approach.

Written back in 2014 (!) this classic article explores how you can do agile retrospectives online in teams that are working remotely.

Dispersed Team Questions Retrospective

The dispersed team questions retrospective exercise is a variant of the questions-based retrospective for teams consisting of members working from different locations, for example, team members working from home or working in different offices, countries, or even continents.

The team members do not need to come together physically, but they need to find a time slot when they can all join the retrospective in person. They can do the retrospective remotely using collaboration tools, to reflect on their way of working and find ways to improve the way that they work together.

Suitable collaboration tools that teams can use are:

A real-time editor or collaboration tool is used to share questions with the team members and collect their answers and define the improvement actions.

Alternatively, you can use an online tool for retrospectives. As of 2020 there are many available, either free or subscription-based. For a full list of tools, see my Retrospective Exercises Toolbox (scroll down to Tools for remote/distributed retrospectives).

How to do a remote question-based retrospective

Let explore how you can do a remote retrospective using a Google Doc that can be co-edited. About a week before the retrospective meeting is scheduled the facilitator selects the questions to be used in the retrospective. These questions are entered into the Google Doc and the document link is shared with all team members before the retrospective.

The Google Doc is used to gather data. The team member can either add their answers to questions before or during the meeting.

The facilitator will set up a group call, e.g. via Zoom or Google Meet. If needed by the team then the facilitator will allow time at the start of the meeting for team members to brainstorm and enter their answers in the document.

When all the answers are added to the document the team can discuss them, build an understanding of the ideas and views of the different team members, and decide which actions are needed. These actions are entered in the same document. The document serves as a report from the retrospective and as an action list, everything is in there at one place where everybody can see it.

Questions for a remote retrospective

Since this retrospective exercise is used by teams that are time and place dispersed there will usually be questions related to working as a remote team, communication using collaboration tools, building relationships while working long distance, etc.

Some sample questions are:

  • What do you like about our team and the way that we work together?
  • What 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 in 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 (remote) retrospectives?

Retrospectives are a great way for teams to improve their way of working, to become agile in an agile way. Getting actions out of a retrospective that are doable, and getting them done helps teams to learn and improve continuously.

Do you want to spice up your agile retrospective? Attend my workshops on Valuable Agile Retrospectives to learn how to adopt agile retrospectives and become agile in an agile way. My books with retrospective exercises are available in eBook and paperback  Feel free to contact me if you want to discuss the possibilities.

Agile Retrospective Tools

In my webshop, I provide books and tools that you can use in your retrospectives and that can help you to improve your facilitation skills:

Download these tools from my webshop, print out PDF files or select jpeg images, and get started to make your agile retrospectives more valuable!

Article updates

This classic post from 2014 (!) has been updated :

  • on September 1, 2015, added a link to Retrium
  • on December 17, 2020, fully revised and updated with new tooling for online retrospective meetings

Ben Linders

I help organizations with effective software development and management practices. Active member of several networks on Agile, Lean and Quality, and a frequent speaker and writer.

This Post Has 10 Comments

    1. Ben Linders

      Thanks Philippe for sharing your blog post with experiences with Trello for remote retrospectives!

      Did you create a separate board for your retrospectives, or did you add columns to the board that you use on daily base to plan and track work in the team?

  1. Kacper

    Hey Ben! I really believe you should check out a tool we’re using to do retrospectives with our clients – RetroTool ( It’s by no means perfect (we’re developing in our free time) but we share it for free and we find it really fun to use. A good facilitator can really customise the flow of the retrospective while still keeping it simple. We missed this in the other tools. I’d love to hear your feedback 🙂

      1. Amadeusz

        Hi Ben! We are moving forward with improving RetroTool and I’d love to hear your thoughts! Do you have a couple of minutes to share what you think about the tool now and what you expect of a tool for remote retrospectives?

        1. Ben Linders

          I haven’t used this tool so nothing to share from my side.

          This comment thread is becoming dominated by a tool, where my article takes a much broader perspective on remote retrospectives. So I ‘m closing this thread now.

  2. Ben Stones

    Great article, Ben.

    I also work within a distributed team with offices across the UK so we needed to find an online tool that would help us perform our retrospectives no matter where we are. I won’t lie, nothing beats a whiteboard – but we were increasingly finding members of our team being required at our other offices on days we were meant to be doing our retrospectives and sprint reviews.

    We tried a number of retrospective tools but many of them lacked certain features we needed (like merging cards) or had those functions but were implemented quite poorly (several platforms we tried were merely merging text from one card into another, which we found quite confusing).

    In January, I realised we needed to create a tool of our own, so during my annual leave I started work on creating a retrospective tool called Sprint Boards ( While there are several other tools out there, I wanted to put my own spin on what I felt provided the best experience for developers. I wnated to use a retrospective tool built with the latest technologies – Bootstrap 4, Vue.js and Laravel – and I’m sure other developers feel the same.

    I didn’t expect Sprint Boards to take off anywhere – it was very much a side-project for me – but as more companies came across it, I started receiving feedback about features other companies needed from the platform. Notably, this includes Slack integration, multiple retrospective formats, user access control, board encryption – and my personal favourite, keyboard shortcuts.

    If you’re looking for a retrospective tool, here’s another option for you :).

    1. Ben Linders

      Hi Ben,

      Thanks for letting me know about I added it to the tools list on the Retrospective Exercises Toolbox which is a page I maintain with retrospective exercise, books, workshops, tools, and more.

      Ben Linders

  3. George

    My team uses It has real-time board updates so there is no need to refresh to see new cards/comments.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.