Online retrospective — a way for continuous improvement

A great retrospective meeting is a celebration of success, a milestone and the perfect kickoff to the next assignment. With help of a retrospective, you can evaluate any new processes, experiments, etc.

Each member of the team should answer the following questions:

  • What worked well for us?
  • What did not work well for us?
  • What actions can we take to improving our process going forward?

In fact, a team can run a retrospective meeting not only after a product launch, but after each stage of whatever project they are assigned to, if necessary.

Check our guide to remote team building with trends, best practices and ideas for games and activities.

This helps you overcome barriers and give feedback before the next process or project begins, at the same time allowing you to continuously learn and improve your processes and results.

It might seem that there is nothing challenging in running such a collaboration type. However, a retrospective meeting can be stressful for some participants, as they need to give their honest feedback on the process. The fear of expressing your opinion or being criticized by others are among the biggest barriers to a successful retrospective. Let’s have a closer look at the potential retrospective barriers.

online retrospective

Retrospective barriers

Retrospective Barriers

People

At this point in a project lifecycle the team members may be feeling a little burned out. At the same time, they need to share honest and comprehensive feedback, which also can be quite stressful. So, engagement and honest feedback are common problems.

There are options available to overcome these barriers in a remote team. Shaking the process up a bit or using whiteboard platforms for running online retrospective can generate interest and create a better atmosphere for sharing feedback.

Process

Groupthink occurs when one or more individuals tend to agree with another, rather than share their own feedback. Being unable to share a unique perspective is a major loss to any retrospective, face-to-face or online, as it is precisely what the organizer is trying to capture. When the process of the retrospective allows individuals to rely on one another, rather than inputting their individual thoughts and ideas, it creates a big barrier to success.

Tool

In a retrospective, it is important to use a tool that can capture everyone’s feedback in one platform. Relying on video, voice, chats and other collaborative systems can muddy the feedback.

Using a tool that allows every team member to access and add thoughts and ideas in an easy and non-confrontational structure provides an online retrospective a much greater impact. Intuitive tools that recognize and highlight contributions can also help drive the engagement of the remote team.

Here are a couple of rules and tips you can use to run a retrospective meeting and get the honest individual feedback you need.

Retrospective rules

Rule 1. Set the context

Begin the meeting with a clear goal. Who, what, where and when. For example, “The conclusion of Phase 2 will be discussed from an operations standpoint”. Everyone needs to stay focused on a defined phase or project and not allow other projects or feedback to creep in. Many participants may arrive at the meeting with an existing bias from previous phases. Removing this as much as possible will help everyone stay focused on the defined topic of discussion.

Rule 2. Start with the positive

Always lead with a success story. It’s hard to recover from a sudden blast of discouraging feedback and engagement within an open environment. So begin by celebrating some of the project’s success stories.

Rule 3. Simplicity matters

Follow a Start, Stop, Continue framework. It can be hard for individual contributors to speak up, especially if they work remote and lose out on office interactions. A retrospective is an opportunity for them to speak out and feel part of a team.

One more tactic to employ is a simple, Good, Better, Best analysis. What worked? What didn’t? And how well?

This framework encourage feedback without rising personal criticism and is a really easy way for everyone to participate, even given language & cultural challenges.

Rule 4. Let the contributors lead

Good facilitators keep their mouths closed as much as possible during a retrospective. Allowing the contributors to lead and providing an open forum for comment, without any “leading” commentary will keep feedback valid and honest.  

Rule 5. Don’t play the blame game

Pointing fingers and pinpointing fault is NOT the goal of the retrospective. Defining who or what failed is not the outcome, instead everyone should walk away with a concrete action plan for improving every step of the process. Veer away from the rabbit hole of blame whenever the conversation heads that way and turn it back into an actionable suggestion for improvement.

Retrospective tips

Retrospective

Tip 1. Bring back the icebreaker

An icebreaker can be revisited during the retrospective, even though most participants probably already know each other. The benefits are two-fold. First, it sets a positive vibe. This is a “one team” meeting, not a finger pointing session. Consider a short team-building icebreaker, such as everyone naming the funniest moment of the project. Second, a quality retrospective always depends on engagement, and icebreakers are extremely successful tools for engagement.

Tip 2. Gather the feedback before the meeting

An online tool helps with this. Imagine an online room, where, instead of a physical whiteboard, teams use an online whiteboard. Using whiteboard platforms to gather feedback before the meeting can generate interest and create a better atmosphere for feedback discussion at the meeting. Ask participants to share their feedback according to one of the frameworks from the Rule 3 above. The team can use a pre-made template, sticky notes and tags to identify their sticky notes.

Remember, it can be hard for people to speak up when they feel their feedback is critical. Providing an online intermediary makes it more like constructive feedback versus a personal critique.

Tip 3. Keep the iteration independent

It can be deceptively easy to refer to the past. Getting stuck on old problems, conversations and projects can muck up the analysis of the current iteration. Not to mention, new team members cannot relate and need to be able to form independent thoughts on how everything worked.

 

You’re now a meeting guru. Send that invite.

We just covered four essential online meetings that everyone comes across on a weekly or daily basis. Adopting rules and techniques that make these common meetings work for remote teams is simple, especially if you follow the tips provided above. Potential barriers to remote collaboration are removed when the correct tools, processes and icebreakers are used.

Talking about the basics and organizing a well-run meeting is just a slice of the big picture. Ever wonder if remote team members are really paying attention? Learn how to keep team members engaged in Chapter 7.

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