What is needed for functional retrospectives? Retro’s do not always work and sometimes it is difficult to see why. After taking part in both unsuccessful and successful retro’s I now try to list couple of things I think are required for functional retrospectives.
You actually need a team. Not a group of individuals where personal motivations interfere with honest discussion and evaluation of the past. You must have a common goal.
In a retrospective you must be able to confront your own work and its results. You may have made mistakes but that must be acceptable and allowed. Get rid of culture of blame.
Be it someone from your team or an outsider someone has to spend time on thinking what is the topic of each retro, what activities or games you will use and where and when it will take place. The internet is full of innovation games and retrospective activities, some very good books on the subject can be found. The facilitator is also needed to keep the retro focused.
This is important, you need focus! Simply asking what was good/bad, what to keep/forget is not sufficient. You need to activities that produce SMART values. Proper topic is also much more better motivator for the participants than repeated and boring questions.
This is about you and your team. If you don’t want to improve having retrospectives is futile.
Simple ingredients, hard to prepare!