Facilitating retrospectives with a remote team

Lessons learned from trying to become a better leader for my teams

Preparation first

I started by doing some research before I actually started organizing my first retrospective. Here I learned that a retrospective for our team would focus on the sprints (as it should) but also a bit on the personal well-being of the team.

  • What went wrong and/or was frustrating?
  • What can be improved?
  • What do we need more of?
  • What do we need less of?
  • Special appreciations
  • Suggestions

So how exactly did we use these questions?

At first, we started out with a spreadsheet that I templated, but… it was messy. And a bit later we moved on to using Trello instead.

Why Trello you might ask?

Firstly, it has a structure of columns and cards, that was already a big upgrade to spreadsheets. And it felt more like the traditional post-it retrospectives I was familiar with. Secondly, you all can work on the same Trello board at the same time without getting distracted by what others are doing. Also easy to see if someone is already posting something you might want to post. And third, the Trello Power-ups made the retrospectives more interesting and easier to facilitate.

Flow of our retrospective meetings

At an appointed time all team members called in for a retrospective. Everyone opened up the Trello board I provided, which only contained a couple of columns with the earlier listed questions for titles.

  1. Voting on experiences that you shared or feel sympathetic about.(approx 10 min tops)
    After that we started with adding votes, every team member voted on the cards they felt similar about. This would only take up a couple of minutes, so it all went down pretty fast.
  2. Discussing all cards on the board. (approx. 30 to 40 mins)
    Last but not least, we would discuss all the topics on the board as a team. Which took a big chunk of our time, but it was often worth it. It gave me better insights into what my team members were experiencing and what we should/could improve towards our next sprint. Another benefit is that it also helped us to bond as a team since we left some room for casual remarks as well.

Things learned

Through our retrospectives, we learned when people needed some extra help to get them on their way. f.e. when someone new on the team was still learning react, another team member would be there to give some extra guidance.

👩‍💻 UX designer & (hobbyist) front-end developer ✨ Community founder @womendotcodebe