Lesson 2: Making Retrospectives less intimidating

Do you want to master Retrospectives?

Then check out my full Retrospectives course.

Video Transcript

Make retrospectives feel less intimidating

Welcome back, to the second lesson of your free Retrospective training!

After this training you will feel prepared and ready to facilitate your first retro. You have already finished lesson one, so now let's start building on that in lesson two:

Make retrospectives feel less intimidating.

In this video, we will be using one of the templates of my paid Retrospective course. The template is called Best Retrospectives for Beginners, which is most of the times a great retrospective for you to get started with facilitating Retrospectives.

With the use of that template, we will look at why choosing the topic of your Retrospective is already fifty percent of the work, and how my Seven Steps for Effective Retrospectives will help you feel less intimidated about running a retrospective.

Okay, so why is choosing the retrospective topic 50% of the work?

Remember from the first lesson that retrospectives are a proven way to build healthy team habits and break bad ones. They are designed to enable you and your team to get better over time.

However, building habits take time, and you don't to try and solve every possible problem at the same time. In fact, it's better to focus on fewer things at a time and solve them first, before focussing on the next issues or opportunities.

By choosing the topic of a retrospective you are helping the team to create that much-needed focus.

If you open the Best Retrospective for Beginners Miro template, you will see that the first thing that you do in a retro is to explain the Goal of today. This helps your team understand what to topic you want to focus on, and also allows you to explain why you chose that specific topic.

The topic for this specific template is still a bit broad, but that's on purpose because that allows you to uncover more specific topics that you can then solve in following retrospectives.

A great framework to choose topics that make sense for your team is called Tuckman's Team stages. There are five stages a team can be in, and in every stage, the team has different behaviors and needs.

For example, the Storming stage, where unfortunately many teams get stuck in.

In this stage the team is figuring out how to complement each other and align on ideas. You can see that by arguments that happen in the team, people looking for role clarity and maybe even competing for leadership.

A team in the Storming stage needs to grow to the next stage as fast as possible, for example by improving relationships, better understanding each other, and having a clear purpose for the team.

Retrospectives are a great way to allow that to happen better and faster.

This is another Miro template my paid Retrospective course, where I also explain the four other Tuckman stages, how to identify what stage your team is in, and how to help your team with the needs they have in this stage.

Writing down and discussing with your team what stage you think you're in can be a great exercise to do with your team, because it allows for an open and honest conversation, and enables you to define steps that you want to take together to get to the next level.

Once you have identified the level of your team, choosing the topic of your next retro is just as simple as picking one of the issues that you identified or focusing on one of the needs a team has in this stage.

Remember to make the topic more specific if it's needed, and  then rewrite that topic that into an interesting question that you and your team can solve.

"How might we"-questions are a simple and highly effective way to do that.

Instead of writing down the problem that you have identified, write it in a question form, that starts with How might we...?

And there you have the topic of your next retro.

In the paid Retrospective course you will find ready-to-copy Miro templates for all of the five Tuckman stages. They are designed in such a way, that you can run your next retrospective in minutes.

7 Steps for Effective Retrospectives

And once you get the hang of the structure used in our templates, it will also become way easier to design your own engaging and effective retrospectives.

We have already covered step one, goal of today. The other steps are breaking the ice, Follow-up on previous actions, Gather data, Generate insights, Decide what to do, and Check out.

Again, if you want to learn more about each of those steps, make sure to check out the paid Retrospective course.

But for now, let's just quickly go over what happens in each step.

The second step is breaking the ice. You can do that with a simple icebreaker game or activity.

In the template that we're using today, we have a quick questions that asks everyone share something that's both positive and true.

You can find the instructions for this exercise in the blue box on the left.

The purpose of this question is to get everyone in the same positive mindset, so that they're more likely to participate actively in the retro.

The third step is Follow-up on previous actions.

In this step, you want to make sure that everyone remembers the things that were decided in the previous retro and that everyone is on the same page about the progress that has been made since.

You can use this template to make your action items more actionable, or you can put them in your team's project management tool of choice.

Then in step four, Gather data, you want to collect all the different perspectives and ideas your team has for the topic you chose.

In this case we have a Learning Matrix, with four areas to write down things the team wants to continue, or change, new ideas they want to try out, or just show some appreciations for other teammates.

Step five is to generate insights, in this case we do it with an exercise called Lean Coffee. That's a really lightweight structure, that helps your team to have focussed discussions that don't drag out too long.

In step six you can capture the insights of that discussions, and then turn them into actionable item that you are able to complete before the next retrospective.

Finally in step seven it's important to do a check-out, so that everyone from the team has time to decompress and in this case we're doing that by asking a quick question about what they have learned in the retro.

When you get more experienced with facilitating retrospectives, you can use the Seven Steps as a starting point, and after choosing the right topic, you can pick and choose the exercises that best fit with that topic.

But to make your life easier in the beginning, I would recommend to make use of complete workshop templates like this one. Because they are designed in a such a way, that you will achieve the goal better and faster, and prevent your retrospectives from becoming repetitive.

You can use the Best Retrospectives for Beginners template, and you're almost ready to start facilitating that meeting. But more about how to facilitate great retros in lesson three.

That's it for this lesson. In this lesson, you learned why choosing the topic of your retrospective is 50% of the hard work, and how the Seven Steps for Effective Retrospectives will help you feel less intimidated about running a retrospective.

In the final lesson, you will learn what's needed to facilitate engaging retros.

See you there!

Do you want to master Retrospectives?

Then check out my full Retrospectives course.