You need to weigh several factors in trying to turn a good retrospective into something great. However, all these factors, from honesty and psychological safety to openness or an innate desire to improve oneself, ultimately fall back on teams that can freely express themselves.
Now there can be several ways that you can rely on to get your team members talking. From playing a virtual escape room at the escape room Breakout to allowing your participants to add their reflections, there can be many useful ways to help you.
Retrospectives will be of no use if teams are constantly unable to talk freely. Team members need to stay committed to expressing the issues that trouble them and need to take responsibility to perpetually make improvements. In this article, we will provide you with a complete guide to help you get your team talking freely in sprint retrospectives. So, let us begin!
Why is your team so quiet in the sprint retrospective?
Firstly, you need to understand exactly why your team remains so erringly quiet during the retrospective. Retrospectives are a very different kind of meeting, far removed from the usual ones that your team might have experienced. In these meetings, it is the ‘retros’ who go about asking team members to openly share their vulnerabilities, weaknesses, problems, or even challenges.
While sharing one’s vulnerabilities openly makes the insights from retrospectives so valuable, it also, at the same time, makes it immensely difficult for participants to open up. No one feels safe openly speaking about their vulnerabilities. Thus, the fear of reprisal can be a vital factor that pulls back your team from opening up. Other factors like the fear of being judged or even not knowing what to say can also be crucial factors that keep your team so quiet in sprint retrospectives.
So, with that, let us now move on to 6 useful ideas that will get quiet teams talking in the sprint retrospective:
1. Get just enough participants
You need to ensure that your participants are comfortable with one another. The more comfortable your team is, the better they can tackle the insights that they gain from the retrospective.
Keeping many unfamiliar faces together in a retrospective will serve no good and can rather exert a chilling effect on the conversation. Chances of misunderstanding can be increased, and your participants would not share much of their views as they might feel nervous speaking before people they don’t know well. Thus, make sure you get just the right number and kind of participants for your next retrospective.
2. Go for an icebreaker session even before the retrospective
A healthy and effective icebreaker is sure enough to get your team well-acquainted with one another! Having your team play a virtual escape room game can be a great way of building the notion of team spirit and getting them to talk freely with each other.
Escape rooms can be the perfect mix of an icebreaker session and some entertainment for your team. Not only will it help your team members get their minds out of all their worries, but it will also facilitate them to build a stronger bond with each other.
3. Set up expectations from the team
Especially new teams might not be well aware of what is expected of them at a retrospective. It might often lead to them unnecessarily worrying about what might happen to them in the retrospective.
So, you should get things straight and let new teams know what goes on in a retrospective. You can set a couple of expectations for your team and let them know what they are supposed to be reflecting on. Sharing some useful tips with your retro participants about how they can draw the most advantage out of the session can be a good idea.
4. Encourage async reflection
Not all your team members may reflect in sync, and that’s okay. Especially introverts might require more time than others to think and reflect.
You should give them enough time before they start reflecting on the past weeks. Encourage your team members to try and open up when they are ready. In this way, your meetings would even be inclusive for introverts, and everyone would then feel at ease.
5. Allow your invited attendees strictly
Prying eyes in a retro can be especially harmful to your attendees. It can prevent your team from being more open about their problems. So, ensure that it is only your team and the meeting facilitator who attend the meeting.
Often you might have people from the management team or elsewhere who wish to join. In that case, explain to them how their presence might damage the psychological safety of the team.
6. Keep it anonymous
It might be difficult for teams to open up before people they know nothing or very little about. So, to make your retrospective effective, it will be a good idea to make all reflections anonymous. In this way, you can help your team overcome any kind of fear that they may face.
Remaining anonymous would be a fruitful way to open up an honest conversation and would allow every team member to participate judiciously.
So, these are 6 useful ideas that will help you get your team talking freely in sprint retrospectives. Make sure to try them out in your next retrospective!