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Agile Coaches' Corner shares practical concepts in an approachable way. It is for agile practitioners and business leaders seeking expert advice on improving the way they work to achieve their desired outcomes. If you have a topic you'd like discussed, email it to, or tweet it with #agilethoughtpodcast.

Apr 10, 2020

This week, Dan Neumann is joined by David Horowitz, the co-founder and CEO of Retrium! Retrium is an incredible tool that’s all about helping teams have engaging retrospectives that fuel continuous improvement. It enables Agile teams to have more effective conversations, discover new insights, and generate action plans by providing a toolbox of activities, a guided facilitation process, and a space to organize your retrospective documentation in one place.


And speaking of retrospectives, today’s episode is going to be a retrospective deep-dive! Dan and David will be addressing some of the common misunderstandings and misconceptions around retrospectives, why you should hold retrospectives in the first place, some of the common anti-patterns with retrospectives (and how to combat them), and most importantly, how to have much more effective, engaging retrospectives!


Key Takeaways

What is the goal of a retrospective?

To achieve actionable team learning

It’s not just about improving productivity; it’s about getting the team to learn something and try something new (that, in turn, may lead to improvement)

They’re not limited to Scrum or Agile (or really any team working together on anything using any process)

Anti-patterns of retrospectives:

Retrospective disillusionment (where someone has the sense that retrospectives are a waste of time and don’t want to show up to them)

Lack of follow-through (if every retrospective led to actionable team learning that eventually led to productivity gains, people would show up and be engaged)

Not being cautious of who you invite to the retrospective because if you can’t get the right people in the room, how are you going to retrospect effectively? (It is crucial to think through who you invite based on the circumstances that you’re facing)

How to improve your retrospectives:

Make sure who you invite is an opt-in that the whole team, through consensus, agrees on bringing in (if you don’t, you’re throwing psychological safety out the window)

You can have multiple retrospectives and it doesn’t have to be at the end of the sprint — do what’s best for your team in any given situation

Some people may speak too much at the exclusion of others — you can use various ways to level the playing field (one way is to ask everyone to write down their ideas on sticky notes or through ‘dot voting’)

Some people feel more comfortable talking 1:1 so you could use something akin to ‘1-2-4-All’ before talking in a group

Generally varying the way the conversation takes place is a good way of ensuring everyone has a chance to speak up

Having a solid background in meeting facilitation is incredibly beneficial to the success of your retrospective

Using open-ended questions (such as, “Does anyone have anything else to say about this?” and counting to ten) can be very helpful for giving everyone a chance to speak

The Scrum Master does not have to facilitate the sprint retrospective

If you’re facing low-engagement in your retrospectives you can increase empathy by opening up the meeting to others who might want to experience how difficult facilitation really is (it also gives you the chance to experience participating)

It can be good practice to reach outside of the scrum team for someone who is a neutral party

Ten surface-level conversations are not as effective as having a single deep-level conversation on a single impediment

Narrow the scope down to the most minimal amount of impediments possible until you’ve proven that you can do more

There are some great facilitation techniques to find the root cause analysis such as the ‘5 Whys’ and ‘Fishbone’

Create space for diverging before converging on a potential solution

Rank your action items to get a list of prioritization of which one your team should try/focus on first (you can use the ICE Framework for this)

Follow the energy of the team to understand what the team wants to focus on (if no one wants to work on it, it won’t happen)

Uplevel the impediments your team is experiencing that it can’t solve

Have information radiators in place

Ask your team: ‘What, out of everything we just discussed, should we talk about intentionally, frequently, with everybody in the organization, as often as we possibly can?’


Mentioned in this Episode:

David Horowitz
David’s Twitter: @DS_Horowitz

David’s Email:


Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great, by Diana Larsen and Esther Derby

The Retrospectives Academy by Retrium

Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Reviews, by Norman L. Kerth

Dot Voting

1-2-4-All Liberating Structures
Root Cause Analysis

The 5 Whys


ICE Prioritization Framework

Badass: Making Users Awesome, by Kathy Sierra


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