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Agile retrospective planning

Retro Survey

For more than a year, I have been fulfilling the role of Scrummaster at the customer in addition to my work as a test consultant / test automation engineer within an IT4IT team. When I started this, I enthusiastically started planning the usual Scrum rituals such as the Planning Session, Retrospective, Refinement and Review. But once the 1st session was done, the Refinement in this case, I realized that you can set up the various Scrum sessions in many different ways. For example, for the Retrospective you can find many different variants on the internet and I tried many variants, from the Spotify Health check to the “Sailboat” and the “Pizza”.

Ultimately, the Retrospective is about looking back at the last sprint and identifying what went well (top) and can be improved in the next sprint (flop) and to come up with a plan for this. The great thing about Scrum is that you can deal with it pragmatically and flexibly and I do so too. So I came up with a new variant for the Retrospective, which works very well for our team. I call this variant the ‘Retrosurvey’ and it works as follows.

2 to 3 days before the sprint ends, I send all the team members a digital survey. The team members can then complete this survey, which can differ per sprint in terms of content. For example, they can think longer about the most important questions such as: “What went well in the last sprint?” And “What can be improved in the next sprint?”. Because that is often the problem. That the team members only start thinking about those essential questions when they are together in the Retrospective. So it may be that in such a situation one just shouts something but has not really thought about it. And in such a case, the Retrospective becomes more of an obligation than that it really adds value to the Scrum process.

I always include about 5 to 6 questions in the retrospective survey. The questions related to 1 or more toppers and 1 or more floppers are always part of this. Other questions that I include are “What are your main challenges for the next sprint?” And “What is your general impression of the past sprint?” For this last question, the team members can choose from the score 1 to 5 (from unsatisfactory to very good). And of course I always keep the possibility in the rest survey for additional comments.

After the team members have completed the retrospective survey, I will be notified of this automatically and when all team members are ready, I add all the results to a standard template, so that all answers are visible and can be presented in the Retrospective. During that actual Retrospective, we can go through all the answers quietly and at with this we no longer have to think about what went so well and could be improved.

This Retrospective setup works very well for our IT4IT team, but fortunately there are several roads leading to Rome and plenty of other examples can be found on the internet. But I really like the space that Scrum leaves for this flexibility.

On to the next Retrospective based on the Retrosurvey!

Silvio Cacace

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