Retrospectives are generally monthly or quarterly meetings that allow the team to reflect on how the product has moved along, and how the collaboration has been. A retrospective may also be held every time a feature is launched or a milestone is achieved.
The goal of the retrospective is to learn and do better, not blame and find fault. It is a safe space with no hierarchy.
Facilitation. Appoint a facilitator who is ideally a neutral third party to run the retrospective. The facilitator explains what the retrospective is for (a specific milestone or timeframe), and explains the process. During the retrospective, this person also ensures that everyone has the chance to voice their opinion, keeps discussions on track, and enforces time.
Prime Directive. At the start of every retrospective, the facilitator reads the Prime Directive out loud.
Prime directive: Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.
Tools. There's no replacing stickies and markers for in-person retrospectives. We have found Trello and Ideaboardz useful for online retrospectives.
Stages. There are 2 broad categories to be discussed.
What went well
What can be improved
Steps. These need to be repeated for each stage.
Allow adequate time (10 minutes) for participants to think about, and write down relevant points for What went well and What can be improved.
Provide an additional 5 minutes for participants to read what everyone else has noted down.
During the time, the facilitator can group similar points together.
Participants then vote on the points they would like to discuss. Each person gets 3 votes.
The facilitators selects the mostly highly voted options and facilitates a discussion around them.
Note down the concrete Action items that emerge from the discussion. Assign an Owner to each Action item whose responsibility it is to ensure that it is worked on
Don't skip What went well. It's important to acknowledge and celebrate your wins as a team.
Ensure that the Action items are truly actionable. Action items such as "Do this more quickly next time" are not valuable.
The amount of time allotted and votes per person can vary based on the frequency of retrospectives and the number of participants.
Respect the confidentiality of everything that was said in a retrospective.