Retrospective for distributed teams, here's how

Example of a virtual retrospective over Google Hangouts
Submitted by Yuliya Mijuk on 12/16/2013

A good friend of mine asked me recently how we would do a retrospective in a geographically dispersed team that has no chance to come together? He asked if we could recommend any tools for a virtual realisation?

At this point we had no useful answer to this question. Since DasScrumTeam is also pretty dispersed at the moment, we decided to perform a virtual retrospective for ourselves. A secondary objective of our retrospective was to define a tool and a retrospective scenario that can be recommended to a distributed Scrum team for their retrospectives. 

Tools and Preparations

After a brief, unsatisfying trying out https://noteapp.com and http://en.linoit.com we chose Google Hangout as a communication tool in combination with the app Symphonical (https://www.symphonical.com) for our retrospective.

Conditions

Peter prepared the retrospective and facilitated it as well. We had 5 participants, but 3 of them were sitting at the same computer. So we can say that we tested the tools combination named above (Google Hangout + Symphonical) for 3 participants. Talk and video quality were not optimal, a few times I was kicked out from the hangout or could not do anything for a moment in Symphonical. That could have been because I participated from home and had a lower bandwidth than the other participants. Despite the connection problems we could still successfully perform the retrospective. The total duration of the retrospective was 2 hours - without the technical problems 90 minutes would have probably been enough.

Our Scenario

A new „Wall“ was created in Symphonical for our retrospective. The wall had 5 columns:

  1. That's what happened
  2. That was good
  3. Things we should improve
  4. And action
  5. New year wishes

Realization steps of the retrospective:

  1. Setting the stage

  2. Gather data

    • Everyone put "post-its" with various events, that had happened since our last retrospective, in the first column ("That's what happened since last summer").
    • The post-its were read and
  3. Create a positive mood

    • One by one we had to move the events he or she considered as positive in the column „That was good“ and justify it.
  4. Identify areas for improvement

    • One by one we moved the events that had not gone so well in the column "Things we should improve" and justified
  5. Define and prioritize improvement steps

    • Again, in order, each chose for himself the main point from the column "Things we should improve"
    • In a discussion it was decided what improvement steps or actions would be done next for each of the chosen main improvement points and the responsibility for their implementation was asigned.
    • The action "post-its" were held in the column "And Action" by the facilitator, each of them provided with a responsible person. In Symphonical you can assign "Responsible" to the post-its on the „Wall“ from the participants of a particular hangout.
    • Discussed items were provided with the "Done"

We had yet another column that is valid until the end of December „New Year Wishes“. Peter or Andreas had expressed the wish: see all again live! And we all joined it. We wish you, distributed teams, for your teams the same! 

Yuliya Mijuk

About the author

Yuliya Mijuk

Yuliya’s professional life started with Scrum. She is a Certified Scrum Professional and received her certification as ScrumMasters in 2006. She studied Computational Linguistics at the LMU in Munich. After the graduation in 2004 she came to WEB.DE where the transition to Scrum was taking place. Later on Yuliya worked as a ScrumMaster and Scrum Coach at SPRiNT iT and billiger.de (solute GmbH).

Tags