The Retrospective and Facilitation Series

Many of our blog readers have expressed their appreciation for the Agile Coaching Series and have voiced a desire for more content in this format. To inject some excitement, we've also designed this series to double as a treasure hunt game. Dive into the details now and embark on your adventure!
Evelyn Tian

The Retrospective and Facilitation Series

Here comes a series of blogs.

We will adopt a three-stage approach in this series on retrospectives and facilitation, aiming to share various tips that you can apply to both your facilitation and your retrospectives.

The first part involves me sharing a facilitated retrospective. This will allow you to reflect on your learning and takeaways from this retrospective and to identify potential improvement opportunities. To add an element of fun, we've turned this into a treasure hunt game as well. If you can find 5 or more tips, you can send it in and we will select one of our readers with the most number of tips as the winner.

The second part consists of a series of short videos from me, detailing all the possible learning opportunities from this retrospective.

In the final part, I will introduce the concept of facilitation diamonds. You'll have the chance to identify how many diamonds are present in the first part, serving as ways to enhance your own retrospective facilitation skills. And we will have another competition here as well - we will select one of our readers with the correct number of diamonds as the grand winner.

Now, ready, set, go - let’s get started.

The Retrospective Session

At the end of the sprint, your Scrum team begins your Sprint Retrospective (hereafter referred to simply as the retrospective).

In keeping with team norms, everyone attends the retrospective session, each person bringing their choice of drink—ranging from tea and coffee to sparkling water and other soft drinks—along with some snacks of their preference.

Your ScrumMaster, Caroline, kicks off the session with an icebreaker: everyone shares something interesting about a sports activity they have tried before. After this, as a team, you review your retrospective working agreement and confirm that everyone is still satisfied with its contents.

Caroline then proceeds to outline the objective of the retrospective: to plan for an even better upcoming sprint, drawing on the experiences of the current sprint. During this sprint, the team completed 5 out of the 6 user stories they had planned, with the aim of achieving the sprint goal.

Then, Caroline presents the timeline she prepared earlier and asks each team member to note some highlights from the sprint on it—highlights of any kind. These can include expressions of appreciation, learning experiences, achievements, aspects related to work, or interactions among team members and with other teams within the department. Over time, your team has learned to value each other’s support, to take time to reflect on and celebrate learning and small successes, and to cultivate appreciation.

Through a quick reading of each positive experience shared in the virtual space, your team transitions to gathering topics for continuous improvement. You agreed in an earlier sprint to note opportunities for improvement on your Scrum Task Board during the daily Scrums. Additionally, you have a digital whiteboard that holds topics your team identified in previous retrospectives, which were not prioritized for discussion in those sessions. Furthermore, some improvement ideas might have emerged while engaging with the timeline earlier in this retrospective.
Looking at the collection of these improvement ideas, your team moves into open discussions to see if anything else needs to be added. This is the moment when individual team members can introduce additional ideas on their mind or through their own methods of logging improvement ideas. If any team member comments on not needing to consider any ideas proposed by others, Caroline emphasizes that this phase is solely for generating ideas and encourages collecting as many potential candidates for improvements as possible. She facilitates the session to ensure a diversity of inputs.

Caroline senses that the team has moved beyond routine thinking and deems it sufficient to progress. She introduces the next steps, where team members volunteer to give a brief elevator pitch summarizing an idea. This is also the moment to consolidate any topics that can be merged.

The discussion results in two topics from the Scrum Task Board and two topics from open discussion, totaling four possible improvement ideas. In accordance with the agreement with the Product Owner, who has aligned expectations with stakeholders, your team dedicates 5% of its time to improvements. Caroline facilitates a quick Roman vote to determine whether all four topics can fit within this 5% constraint. It becomes clear that these four ideas are too ambitious to fit within the allotted time.

Caroline then directs the team to the digital space where your retrospective topic selection criteria are located, criteria that your team developed over time for deciding which topics to address when faced with multiple options. She asks if the criteria still apply, and if there is anything to add, remove, or amend.

Each team member has two votes. Caroline initiates a quick voting session in the digital space, and the priorities become clear to the team within 60 seconds. One topic receives nine votes (all votes), and another receives seven votes.

Caroline then focuses on the first improvement idea, asking each team member to consider what specific actions could be taken to achieve the desired improvement, assuming all possibilities. She urges team members to write down specific and small actions that could ideally be accomplished in the first couple of days of the sprint, and then introduces the next step: silently consolidating actions after individual reflection.

Through silent consolidation, the team identifies three specific actions. Caroline asks the team to evaluate whether all the actions are necessary, and it becomes evident that they are, given the scope of the improvement. She then asks for a quick confidence check on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being entirely confident, to assess how confident the team is in achieving the improvement with these actions. Although no one is fully confident, further discussion leads to the identification of an additional specific action, and a subsequent confidence check shows 100% confidence within the team.

Caroline proceeds with the usual 3W questions: WHO will be working on WHAT by WHEN? Some team members begin to select actions, adding their names and estimated timelines for completion. One action remains unclaimed, so the team decides to defer the decision until transitioning into the next sprint's work, maintaining flexibility based on the cross-functional competencies needed for upcoming user stories.

Now, Kevin, one of the team members, initiates the last part, the retro-retro, a term your team coined for the retrospective of the retrospective. As agreed in the last retrospective, this session covers not just today's retrospective but the team's approach to retrospectives in general.

During this retro-retro, Kevin presents the team's retrospective spider chart and asks if any elements need to be added. The chart currently includes four elements: fun, improvement, ROI, and everyone's contribution. For the first time, Kevin suggests assigning volunteers to each element. Team members pair up to take responsibility for an element, then discuss the current state of their assigned area, consider adjustments to the spider chart ratings, and brainstorm improvements. After five minutes, each pair shares their proposals, actions, and expectations with the whole team. Finally, they update the spider chart with adjustments, planned actions, and any updates to the retrospective working agreement.

Upon completion, Kevin and Caroline close the retro-retro and the entire retrospective by thanking everyone and asking each member to share one word to wish the rest of the team well for the upcoming sprint. This concludes the sprint retrospective for your team.

Now the fun starts

As you might have noticed, there are different tips embedded the above retrospective session.

I invite you to engage actively with our content by identifying and highlighting tips that resonate with you or could benefit others in similar roles.

I will be revealing these tips gradually, returning to this blog to offer practical insights along with a concise theoretical overview.

Please email me the tips you discover. The participant who identifies the highest number of tips will be awarded a complimentary 45-minute coaching session with me. You can choose the focus of this session, whether it be career advancement, life coaching, or agile coaching.

Let the exploration begin!

How many tips are there in this retrospective?
If you can find more than 5, please submit your thoughts. 

About me - the Author

Before we delve deeper, if you've recently stumbled upon my blog and find yourself wondering, "Who is she?" "Why should I be reading her blogs?"
  • I hold the designation of Certified Agile Coach (CAC) with the Scrum Alliance, the sole member-driven nonprofit certifying body in the agile space since 2001. Additionally, I am honored to have been recognized as both a Certified Team Coach and Certified Enterprise Coach with the Scrum Alliance for over a decade.
  • Since 2011, I've been privileged to mentor Agile Coaches across the globe, guiding passionate practitioners from 80 countries (as of Nov. 2023) in their professional journeys. Among my mentees are Certified Agile Coaches, Certified Scrum Trainers (CST), Accredited Kanban Trainers, and individuals who share their expertise at conferences worldwide.
  • Furthermore, I hold the Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and am trained as a professional coach supervisor. I specialize in providing coaching supervision for professional coaches to support their ongoing development.
  • As the co-founder of the Enterprise Coaching Institute, an ICF accredited training provider, I am committed to offering coaching-based leadership training. Our aim is to empower leaders to excel by equipping them with professional coaching skills and to foster the growth of professional coaches in the industry.

I speak and keynote at international conferences since 2011 about organization transformation, Agile, leadership, agile coaching, and professional coaching.

Welcome again to this series! 
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