The Retro Challenge - Why a 'slow' sprint is a great opportunity

No Retro today

Last week, we challenged all agile practitioners to spice up their retro, to change the format every time they run a retrospective. Although we had some great feedback already, we will still wait a few weeks for a blog post summarising the learnings.

The topic of retros led to a discussion around the value of retros that I found particularly interesting: One of the team leads, who usually facilitates the retros at our client, said they didn’t run a retro last week. The sprint was slow, a few people sick or on holidays, so they didn’t get much done to reflect upon.

A slow sprint is a great opportunity for reflection

Instead of a reason not to run a retro, a slow sprint can be a tremendous opportunity: How often does your team take the time to reflect on topics outside of the regular sprint activities? When have you last reflected on whether your team actually adheres to their Team Charter? What is the state of your Continuous Improvement items - are they actually being implemented, or are they stale? Why? How is the agile maturity of the team? Reflect on the agile principles and whether you are following them.

The point is, there are a hundred things going on inside and outside the team that is often not addressed. It may be because of a time-boxed retrospective, because of good conversations on weekly topics, or because those things are just not thought of.

Prepare the topics to encourage broader thinking

If you had a slow sprint, take advantage of it. One way we found particularly useful and very easy to experiment on is to prepare a retro wall with the items you want the team to think about. Instead of your usual format or the examples from last week’s post, define the topics - do it yourself or ask the team to came up with 3-5 topics. Try the format of the “Wellbeing North Star” (photo above).

After explaining the format, we usually ask the team to think first about what went well regarding each of the topics. We then ask them to consider the things that could be improved, or should be changed in some way. Once all post its are on the board, we map the topics together and define actions, owners and timeframe for the items we want to improve.

Ideally, your team celebrates a culture of continuous learning and improvement. Don’t let a slow sprint challenge that. Instead, celebrate the opportunity.