3 tips for facilitating a successful multi-team retrospective

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Posted by: Bryan Stallings, Lucid Chief Evangelist, Agile Coach, and Certified Scrum Trainer

I’m a big fan of retrospectives. Throughout my 17 years as an Agile coach and consultant, I’ve witnessed many.

During a retrospective, a team comes together to learn from and celebrate their achievements, all while taking a moment to reflect and plan improvements. 

For many teams, retrospectives had to change as we shifted to hybrid work. This shift doesn’t mean retrospectives stop, though. Instead, we need to place even greater value on regular, effective retrospectives! 

These intentional, regular touchbases after a project, no matter how big or small, helps teams:

  • Improve project processes and outcomes
  • Celebrate individual and team wins
  • Create strong collaborative relationships, no matter how dispersed

So, how do you facilitate effective retrospectives remotely?

You do it through thoughtful facilitation, planning, and visual collaboration. 

Recently, I had the opportunity to facilitate a multi-team retrospective remotely. This retrospective was about a large project that spanned several months and involved many teams across our organization here at Lucid.

I used the multi-team retrospective Lucidspark template shown below to make the magic happen.

multi-team retrospective
Multi-team retrospective (click to modify online)

Here are three takeaways I learned from hosting this remote multi-team retrospective and how using this template made all the difference.

1. Set expectations for successful facilitation

This specific retrospective was scheduled for three hours. If that sounds like a long remote meeting, you’d be in agreement with most of our attendees prior to attending. But having a three-hour event was crucial to having a worthwhile retrospective since the project spanned several months and involved several teams. 

To make it a successful event, we set expectations with the meeting attendees in advance. This means:

  • Sending out an agenda explaining the purpose, outcomes, and a high-level plan for the session
  • Making time for a small break each hour of the meeting
  • Finding the best time for the participants to meet–for us, the morning may have been better
  • Sharing meeting expectations and any pre-work that will enable participants to come prepared

No matter how long, retrospectives can be emotionally taxing. It can be difficult to share tough feedback, and being on camera for a long period of time is exhausting. With thoughtful and intentional facilitation, your meeting attendees can make the most out of their retrospective. 

Additionally, encourage your participants and facilitators (that means you) to unwind after a large group retrospective. Consider doing something playful together! This is the time to unwind a bit before the next sprint begins.  

2. Celebrate each other more often

Too often we move on quickly from one thing to the next without taking time to celebrate the wins. What new solutions did your team create? Or, did you strengthen team relationships? Whatever your team’s wins look like, celebrate them with each other.

A great way to communicate accomplishments is through data about the impact of the team’s work. In our recent retrospective, we shared some metrics that many of the attendees hadn’t seen before! We can still remember the team’s reaction when they saw how impactful their work was.

Celebrating the team’s wins also helps individuals and teams feel connected to each other, their work, and the impact they are making.

Not only are data and metrics helpful insights for the teams doing the work, but they are of interest to the organization. As we prepared for our recent retrospective, we shared the data with some executives, who then pre-recorded videos thanking the teams, which we played during the event. We also presented the data afterwards at an all-hands that showcased the teams and the impact their efforts made.  

Another way that our group celebrated in our last retrospective was on the backpack section seen here. 

 

backpack retrospective

As you see, each person’s “backpack” was covered with virtual patches placed there by other team members. The patches contained sincere compliments on how each individual made a difference throughout the project. Taking a couple of minutes to think about how various contributions make our work successful made our team even more grateful for the talent and relationships each person brings to the table. 

3. Share different perspectives  to improve collaboration

One of the most valuable parts of a multi-team retrospective is the opportunity to share what the experience was like for each team, and gain insights around the impact different teams have on each other.  This both increases our awareness and deepens relationships across teams.  

In our latest example, we revealed the metaphor of climbing a mountain. As most hikers know, the view can be breathtaking, but the journey can be strenuous at times. We had the group imagine they are at the top of their mountain having just delivered something amazing! As we admire the view, one of our colleagues turns to the others and says “This is magical!  Let’s do this again next weekend!” The group might say, “we would love to do it again, but not exactly the same.  We’ve learned that there may be an easier trail, let’s take that”. Or, “I want to be sure we see that waterfall on the way up, but I want to avoid that big hole I stepped in.” As a group, they want to inspect the journey to make the climb itself easier in the future.

We had the teams inspect their “climb” noting various events along the way. This is a great starting point, but we wanted this group to gather data one level deeper. We had the participants draw out an “emotional seismograph.”  This created a shared visual of the emotional landscape of the “climb.”

emotional seismograph

At times, several teams were feeling positive about the progress and at other times, it was more difficult which can be seen as the seismograph dips. The main point here is that no project is perfect. Having this visual and the conversation around the visual is a powerful way to produce insights.  

While sharing some of these harder moments can be nerve-racking, facilitators can help set the meeting tone to encourage a growth mindset. Taking the time to complete this retrospective helped each person understand other team members’ perspectives to ultimately improve their future working relationships. 

So, was this retrospective successful? I’d say so! 

Having these meetings remotely presents new challenges, but retrospectives are incredibly critical, so it’s worth the learning curve. In a hybrid work environment, teams need to establish strong relationships to deliver valuable solutions quickly. Through thoughtfully-facilitated retrospectives, teams can inspect and adapt to increase improved collaboration and working relationships in the future.  

multi-team retrospective

Ready to take your remote retrospectives to the next level? Give this Lucidspark template a go!  

Try template

About the author

As Chief Evangelist at Lucid Software and Certified Scrum Trainer, Bryan Stallings has coached thousands of individuals and teams in Agile and Scrum techniques.

Ready to take your remote retrospectives to the next level? Give this Lucidspark template a go!

Try template

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