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How the Grinch did not steal the Christmas Retrospective

Have you ever encountered the situation that a large part of your Scrum-Team was absent during a Sprint?! I have. It‘s called the time between Christmas and New Year‘s. As a human being living in Western Europe, I very much enjoy that time. As a ScrumMaster in charge of making sure that the Scrum-Team is productive by adhering to the Scrum process – I wouldn‘t say that I‘m too keen on December.

This January, the situation reappeared. Returning from our holidays, the Team naturally questioned the point of carrying out the Sprint Retrospective, as not even half of the Team had been present for most of the Sprint. As a ScrumMaster, I believe that leaving out the final meeting for process improvement would break the rhythm. A rhythm that is necessary in seeking continuous improvement.

So instead of cancelling the meeting, I decided to make it extra-short and not limit the time scope to the last Sprint. I took a flip-chart, wrote the header “Within our Scrum-Team, I feel …“, drew a vertical line down its middle, and wrote on the left-hand side of the paper “productive“, while on the other side “unproductive“. I then asked each Scrum-Team member to limit one’s input to overall three cards per person.

The result was fantastic.

  • Each participant presented his three cards. Interestingly enough, nobody put all three on either side of the flip-chart. By limiting the number, only the most important aspects were mentioned.
  • Quite a few topics were repeated by different members of the Team, so we began clustering them.
  • Next, we had a look at the “productive“ cards. Was there anything that we hadn‘t already automatically adopted into our process?!
  • After dot-voting, we focused on those cards that stated the Team‘s top reasons for lacking productivity. These we discussed.
  • Finally, we initiated action items that everyone agreed to.

My Feedback Door showed that the Retrospective had fulfilled the necessary criteria: it had gotten everyone involved, taken little time, we had stayed focused, and we had again found some aspects that we could and would improve in.

Try it. I‘m sure you‘ll like it.