Best online RETROSPECTIVE for beginners (with template)

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Best online RETROSPECTIVE for beginners (with template)

Your first online retrospective

Getting started with online retrospective can be a bit scary and overwhelming. But actually they are fun to do and super effective, once you know the five steps.

In this video we will use "the best retrospective for beginners" from Retromat (https://retromat.org/blog/best-retrospective-for-beginners/). With the Google Slides template above you can run your online retro today.

How can you run online retrospectives that are fun and effective? 

At the end of 2020, many teams are still figuring out their online way of working:

How can you collaborate without all the meetings and build more flexibility in your day? 

Online retrospectives are a great way to improve your team's effectiveness and happiness. Retrospectives are a great way to see what went well and can be improved on a project. 

But the problem is that most retrospectives are only done at the end of a project when it's too late to fix anything. If they are done at all.

You need to do retrospectives regularly. That will help you be iterative and incremental when it comes to improving your team's productivity. 

You will find and fix problems that will help your team today instead of one year from now. 

A great book that will help you get started with agile retrospectives is called Agile Retrospectives—written by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen. 

The book will give you many examples and a structured approach on how to run agile retrospectives. 

The five phases of online retrospectives

An essential part of the book is about the five phases of an agile retrospective:

  1. Set the stage
  2. Gather data
  3. Generate insights
  4. Decide what to do
  5. Close the retro. 

And this may sound a bit overwhelming or scary, maybe even. But actually, retrospectives are pretty fun and easy to run once you get the hang of it. 

To help you get started, I created the Google slides template, which you can copy today to run your first online retrospective. 

You can download the template at the top of this page, and you will receive the template in your inbox today. And with this link, you can also download the PowerPoint or PDF version of this template. 

Best online retrospective steps

I will run through the workshop step-by-step because doing your first retrospective can maybe feel a bit overwhelming.

But it's really fun to do because you will help your team become much more productive.

(The outline of this retrospective workshop is made by Corinna Baldauf from Retromat.)

The schedule for this online retro is: 

  1. Set the stage: Positive & True
  2. Gather Data: Learning Matrix 
  3. Generate insights: Lean Coffee
  4. Decide what to do: Worked Well, Do Differently
  5. Close the retro: AHA 

1. Set the stage: Positive & True

The goal of this exercise is to create a positive vibe. And you want to allow everyone to speak because if they talk at the beginning of the retrospective, then the chances that they will talk later in the workshop are bigger. 

There's a time box of five minutes for this exercise. 

What you want is that everyone in the team comes up with a tailored question to get a response that is positive, true, and about someone's own experiences. 

So, for example: 

What have you done really well in the last iteration, the previous two weeks?

Or: 

What is something that makes you really happy? 

Everyone in the team has a minute or two in silence, where they can think of a question and write down their question in their own workspace. This way, the team has time to reflect and write down their thoughts.

After the minute is up, ask people to copy the post-it and put it down on the team slide. You can go through them one by one and ask everyone to answer one of these questions. 

2. Gather Data: Learning Matrix

The next step in the retrospective is the learning matrix. This step aims to get topics to talk about and appreciate your teammates: 

  • What do we wanna continue? 
  • What do you wanna change? 
  • Do you have any new ideas for the team? 
  • Who do you want to appreciate? 

You want to invite the team again to silently write their ideas in their own workspace. One thought per idea. And then, after the time is up, copy the stickies one by one. 

Usually, I set a timer for four to five minutes for the first part. So, where everyone writes for themselves, and then I set another timer for the second part. 

And while the post-its are being put on the board, you as a facilitator will actively listen. If you see that there is an overlap of topics, cluster those stickies. 

In a really short amount of time, you got lots of ideas to talk about. But you cannot solve everything at once. 

So the next step is to focus on the topics you want to discuss today in the rest of this session. And you can do that really easily by using dot voting. 

In this case, everyone has five votes. So I want to copy and paste these votes to this slide. And now I can place them next to the topics I want to talk about today. 

For example, I find it really important to talk about a topic. Then I can place three votes next to it. I also want to talk shortly about another subject and maybe how we can learn from our success. 

3. Generate insights: Lean Coffee

The next step is a lean coffee, a personal favorite workshop because you don't need any preparation. And it helps to have more focused discussions. What we're gonna do is we're gonna copy the issues with the most votes from the previous exercise. So we're gonna copy these three post-its in this case and we're gonna put them in the squares over here. Usually, you have more topics to talk about than the time you have available, if that's the case for your team, then put them in the parking lot. It helps to really park the other topics because you cannot solve everything at once. And this keeps the topics and the discussions here more focused and direct. And the next step is simple. Let's just talk about one topic at a time. You have a time box of 10 minutes per topic. And it's important that you, as a facilitator write down suggestions based on the lean coffee discussions. This way, you capture the insights from the group and write them down as suggestions so that they can later reflect on their own discussions and choose what our next step would be. I will show you how that looks like in a bit but also it's important to keep the time box, 10 minutes per topic. And once the time is up, then go to this slide and ask the team, if they wanna continue with this topic, do with thumbs up, and then make sure that everyone can see it in the call. Or if you wanna go to the next topic, then thumbs down. And if the majority is thumbs up then you continue for five more minutes. And otherwise, you go to the next topic. Try to keep this part of the workshop to a maximum of 30 minutes. If you spend more than 30 minutes, you'll probably come up with more ideas than you can handle in the next sprint. 

4. Decide what to do: Worked Well, Do Differently

In the fourth step, we're gonna decide what to do. And in this case, we are gonna do it with worked well do differently. It's pretty simple. There are two boxes. What worked well and what can we do differently? And in the previous step I asked the facilitator to already capture suggestions here. So usually you have a number of suggestions here available. In this case, we have two. And when we get to this part of the workshop, I asked the team to reflect on those suggestions and then for themselves in silence, write down their own suggestions. And it's important to state that these are just suggestions and we will follow it in the next step which ones we're actually gonna do. But usually for the step, you also want a short discussion, not too long. So it's up to you as a facilitator to decide how long you want to keep this running. It depends a bit on how much time you want to give for this step, but usually there's a hard deadline at the end of the meeting. So depending on that, decide how much time you want to invest. And also remember here that you cannot solve everything at once. So you first want to get an idea of the possible solutions and the next step we're gonna vote. And we're gonna vote with three dots in this case. So copy-paste them again, go to the previous slide. And everyone puts them next to the solutions which they think are the most valuable for the team. And they are the 20% beneficial ideas. So we don't want to solve everything at once. Focus on the top 20%. And again, we're gonna copy the ones with the most votes, and we're gonna move to the next part. And we place them in these boxes. And these are your action items for the next sprint. You are experiments to improve. Make sure they are specific and actionable, measurable. And also, make sure that you have a way to follow up in the next retro, and help the team remind what iterative and incremental means by this quote from James Clear, "When making plans, think big. When making progress, think small." Visualize Value has a great image of the steps you need to take to achieve the big plans. 

5. Close the retro: AHA moments

And then the fifth and last step. What are the AHA moments of the team during the retrospective? 

So what did they learn, and how do they look at it on a return of time invested? 

First, ask the team to put their name in one of the circles and then choose a smiley that represents their current mode. So, in this case, I'm pretty okay. And when everyone has done that, you can pass around the ball.

(As the facilitator, you can start by pointing out the first person) 

So let's say Timon starts. What did he learn in this retrospective? And after he responds to the question, he will pass the ball on to someone else. 

In this case, it might be worth investigating why Corinna is not happy. If anything is still bugging someone at the end of the meeting, then you should invite them to feel free to speak up. 

(And hopefully, you created an environment where they actually feel free enough to do so. )

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