Remote Retrospective Tool

Last post 05:11 pm January 16, 2020
by John Varela II
8 replies
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02:01 am January 15, 2020

Hi,

I am the facilitator of a remote development team. (each person is in a different Europe country)

I would like to know how to perform good remote retrospectives.

I'm using this tool Neatro which is awesome but I feel like I am missing something. 

Do you guys have best practices about taking the best from an online retrospective ?

Thank you !

 

08:05 am January 15, 2020

I find etiquette more important than the tools.

So a shared understanding of the purpose of the retrospective, and agreements to make sure everyone gets a chance to be heard (not talking over each other, for example). Proactively telling colleagues if their connection is substandard, and those colleagues taking action on it. Team members turning cameras on, so facial expression and body language can be seen. Being courteous to eliminate distractions such as noise, or people moving in the background. Timeboxing discussions and sticking to those timeboxes. Being comfortable stepping in with each other, when one colleague goes into a monologue.

As for tools, Miro does a good job of emulating a whiteboard and post-it notes. I've also had moderate success using trello.

04:17 pm January 15, 2020

I second everything @Simon Mayer said in his first paragraph.  I have even had teams that would visually indicate when they wanted to say something while others were talking (some would actually raise their hand).  This helps to keep the conversation going and ensure that everyone can hear what is being said. 

As for tools, I've used things as simple as shared Google Docs or Sheets.  It isn't quite as visual as digital sticky notes but it still allows everyone to collaborate and you can actually see when/what others are typing. Plus it is easy to save the articifact if you need. I've used Trello also.  Microsoft has a free tool called Whiteboard that is not terrible. I'm also going to make an assumption that you have some kind of video conferencing tool and probably a messenger app of some kind.  You might look into plugins for them as this kind of need is becoming more and more prevelant.  

04:44 pm January 15, 2020

I echo the comments about ensuring the etiquette and general respect for working together is cleared up first then worry about what tool to use, if any.

ideaboardz.com is one that I use a lot. It's not the greatest because it doesn't offer much in the way of editing the board configuration once you start but it is free and works well enough.

05:54 pm January 15, 2020

funretrospectives.com is another site that provides a tool as well as several different formats for facilitating retrospectives. 

06:15 pm January 15, 2020

I'm using this tool Neatro which is awesome but I feel like I am missing something. 

Can you clarify in any way what you feel is missing? Is it something which, if the team were properly co-located, you suspect would be improved?

04:10 am January 16, 2020

Thank you all for your answer. It really helps.

I did try these other tools but I'm really happy with this one right now. 

@Ian : I feel like I cannot feel the frustrations or the need to help someone develop what he thinks as I would if we were all in the same room.

But I think it's a new muscle I need to train through videoconference.

04:06 pm January 16, 2020

Reading the room is hard to do when there are multiple rooms involved.  One thing I suggest is to have everyone use cameras so that faces can be seen at least. If some of them are in a big room, you might suggest that they try joining from desks and individual computers/cameras. Level the playing field across the team and it becomes easier for everyone.  Being able to actually see the people instead of just listening to a voice will actually help everyone. A good video capable meeting system is actually much more important than a tool that will simulate sticky notes on a whiteboard. 

05:11 pm January 16, 2020

You're always going to want to see each other, even if you're all in a different location. People are people and not resources.

One tool I've been using is https://funretro.io The free account is a little limited BUT you can hide all of the cards and then unhide them when people are done. One behavior I have seen is folks will not write all their thoughts if they think someone else's thoughts already captures it. There's something to be said about the difference of seeing 3 or 4 cards that are the same vs one card with 3 or 4 thumbs up on it.