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Retrospective takes long time

Last post 08:17 am September 23, 2022 by Rafał Brzozowski
5 replies
08:18 am September 16, 2022

Hi there,

I have a problem with Retrospective takes above 2h with 2 week Sprint.

I would like to make it faster, around 1h as all participants are already tired after such long meeting and not paying attention.

Right now each person says their's opinion on thing that went well and things that could be improved.

After that we make action points fromt those could be improved.

As the dev team is 10 people + SM and PO then it takes a long time to provide each answer. 

I like that everyone has a time for speaking, it's not a secret who said what. I was thinking about everyone typing their ideas in one moment but it would cut out for example those 2 things.

How do You think should I aproach the topic?

08:28 am September 16, 2022

First thing to note is that seems like a pretty large team, and I don't think you should simply skip over the question of 'Is the team too big'. 

That said, solving the immediate problem of the retro is really just about using appropriate time boxes. 

Help the team understand the need for them (it sounds like that should be easy, since they know the retro is running long and are tired) and then introduce timeboxes for the major parts. 

8 minutes to write your thoughts, 5 minutes to theme etc. 

Make sure each topic only has 5 minutes with a chance to vote for another 5, or move on. 

this should bring timings under control. 

I'd also strongly suggest thinking about different retro formats. It seems implied in your post that you're just doing 'what went well, what didn't' every time. 

Playing with the format, and going for some faster paced and more engaging approaches, might also help. 

10:33 am September 16, 2022

As Michael mentioned, experimenting with formats could help with structure, focus and time boxing.

Lean Coffee is a really simple structure where the team builds a backlog of topics to discuss, does a quick pitch on topics and votes on each to set priority. You order the backlog based on priority (highest number of votes), starting with the highest item. You pull one item in for discussion with a time box of say 5 mins. At the end of the time box the team can decide if they want to continue on this one topic (add another 5 minutes), or move to the next. You have break points between each topic and the team makes choices on most important things to discuss. If you run out of time, you know you have discussed the most important topics.

Another is using Liberating Structures (LS). With 30+ microstructures to choose from, you can capture, sort and sift through a lot of ideas in a short period of time with structure and time boxing. Most structures involve break outs of some sort, which is a great way for more targeted discussion in smaller groups, and bringing insights back to the larger group in an efficient way. I have been using LS for a number of years now with great success. Also helps balance situations where you have introverts/extroverts, loudest voice/quietest voice, distractions etc. Worth a look: (1-2-4-All could be a good one to start with)

01:36 pm September 16, 2022

I would like to make it faster, around 1h as all participants are already tired after such long meeting and not paying attention.

That could be less a problem of speed and more a problem of effectiveness.

  • Regardless of timebox, how effective are the team at identifying, and then actioning, meaningful and impactful improvements in a timely way?
  • Are there significant organizational constraints which impede this effectiveness and contribute to a sense of stagnation?

01:34 pm September 17, 2022

There have been some great ideas already shared, such as time boxes, experimenting with formats, and Liberating Structures. There are some books and tools that helped me think about how to facilitate this event such as:

A few other tips. Make sure the Scrum Team understands the purpose of the Sprint Retrospective:

The Scrum Team inspects how the last Sprint went with regards to individuals, interactions, processes, tools, and their Definition of Done. Inspected elements often vary with the domain of work. 

Consider having the team vote on one of the above topics from above, where they feel they need to focus the most. Dot voting could be a tool you use.

Or organize them into smaller groups or pairs. You can even do this virtually with Zoom breakout rooms. Perhaps half the team focuses on processes, the other half focuses on Definition of Done. Then when the time box is over, use a Liberating Structure Shift and Share to get more divergent thinking and convergent buy in.

Consider asking others on the Scrum Team to take turns facilitating to freshen it up - the Scrum Master is not required to be the facilitator.

I was thinking about everyone typing their ideas in one moment but it would cut out for example those 2 things.

Try it and see how it goes. Silent Writing is an excellent technique at times. Then use affinity mapping to group stickies into themes, and have them Dot Vote on the top items they want to focus on.

Lastly remember to encourage the Scrum Team to take action next Sprint on at least one continuous improvement. After all, inspection with adaptation is simply a waste of time, and the Scrum Team may wonder why they have Sprint Retrospectives in the first place.

Scrum on

08:17 am September 23, 2022

Hi there, 

thank You for all great answers.

To reply on Yours questions,

Michael, yeah, it's quite a large team and I have it in mind to keep it under control with the management. Thus far we found a way to fit in 15 minutes with daily format ;) 

You all asked about current retro effectivness. I would say that I am happy with what we had till now. We were able to define clear action points on the topics that are causing a struggle to the team and we are able to implement improvements that are making life better.

With lowering the time for the meeting I need to make sure that this is not lost.

I already implemented some improvement with the timeboxes. I rearranged dot-voting as a separate time-box. Previously it took some time. 

With this way we have topics prioritized and if we can't manage to discuss all, we have the most urgent ones cleared.

The team felt good with this improvement and they were happy about it.

However, I am still going to investigate this topic with different formats of retro meeting. It sounds very interesting.

Thanks once again

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