Agile Retrospectives – Setting the Stage Right

If you are a coach who is working with a team that is new to Agile, one of the biggest hurdles is to get the right participation during retrospectives.

When teams are new, I have seen either of these happen – Teams talk a lot, and come up with an over-exhaustive list of items to work on, OR, the team does not open up. The former is less likely than the latter

Both of these are indications to believe that teams’ understanding of Retrospectives need to be corrected. How do you actually do that? By Setting the stage correctly.

Before I proceed, let me say this – I found this book very effective when conducting retrospectives. This is a must read for any ScrumMaster or Agile Coach

Coming back to setting the stage.

This is what I usually do, in order to set the stage right

I start the retrospective by showing the famous “Chocolate Scene” from I love Lucy to the team members. (I am sure all of you have seen this video –

Showing this video helps me in two ways – One, it lightens up the environment, and two, helps set the context right.

After the video, I ask the team members “What do you think will now happen to Lucy now?”

The obvious answer I get is – “Sooner or later, Lucy will be fired, again”

Then I ask them – “Lucy has to face the axe, but, who do you think is responsible for this”

This question mostly sparks a conversation that can sometime go in multiple directions. The conclusion however is that, we all agree that Lucy will be fired because she did not tell her supervisor the truth. She did not give the right feedback at the right time.

I then bring the team back to the retrospective telling them, this is a formal forum for all of us to provide feedback(Both Positive and negative) to each other, and (maybe) even to our management, on areas where improvement is needed.

I have seen that this, in most cases, sets the right stage for people to open up.