When 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:
- Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, or another audio&video connection so that the team members can hear and see each other
- A collaborative real-time editor like Google Docs or Microsoft OneDrive
- Online collaboration tools like Miro, Groupmap or Lino
- A tool for distributed retrospectives, such as Retrium (see the value of continuous retrospectives)
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!
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