Ideas for your Home Scrum retrospective
The Sprint Retrospective, as the name suggests, is a chance to retrospectively reflect on the last sprint as a team and consider how it went. As the Scrum guide says, it is for the team to “plan ways to increase quality and effectiveness.” After the Daily Scrum, it is the most important event to include in your Home Scrum system. You only need to do it once a week, or a fortnight (or however long your sprints are), and it doesn’t have to take long either, but without this opportunity for the team to sit down together and let each other know how they’re feeling about things, resentments build up.
Out of all the ways that the tech industry is innovative in their ways of working, and within Scrum in particular, I was most impressed by the Sprint Retrospective: the idea of approaching an honest and up-front discussion of people’s feelings and mental health, no matter how half-hearted the actual effort made, is still a massive deal to see included within a corporate setting. In a home setting, a retrospective fits even better. It provides a chance to talk to your partner, family, or household about life in general and possible improvements, with your Home Scrum system as a focal point and framework. It builds in more opportunities for better communication, and that’s certainly something which benefits my relationship with Francis.
So let’s take a look first at some examples of how you can structure your Sprint Retrospective (or, as it’s informally called, the ‘retro’).
How’s it going? Good things and bad things
The simplest way of running a retro is simply to give everyone the chance to answer the questions: what’s been going well? And what’s been going not so well? A slightly different form of these questions would be: what things should we keep doing? And what things should we stop doing?
Many times we have kept our retro this simple, either giving ourselves a minute or two to write our answers separately (usually on scrap paper, but it could be onto post-it notes that you stick up onto a wall, a space on your board, or a larger piece of paper) and then share them with each other.
For the negative points, we talk over whether we can think of any way to improve the situation going forward, and by the end of it (which, with only two of us, can take as little as five minutes) we have agreed on an experimental tweak to our system to trial for the next sprint.
For example, say we each aim to come up with three bullet points for the pros and cons of the last week. Perhaps Francis has written:
- Dismantled cupboard and took it down to the tip
- Managed to do a Daily Scrum every day
- Cleared out old tasks which were cluttering up the board
- Just ignored the ‘renew passports’ task because I didn’t want to do it
- Bored of counting up points every day
- Ate too many take-aways
In that case, perhaps we would end up negotiating a swap of tasks, so that I take on renewing the passports in exchange for Francis doing something I don’t want to do. We might talk through ideas for how to make counting up the story points done easier or quicker, but ultimately we come up with the radical option of not using any points at all for a week to see how that goes. We agree on that as our ‘experiment’ to take into the next week. Perhaps the eating-too-many-take-aways problem is not something we can see a solution for at the moment, but at least we’ve acknowledged it and maybe we’ll think of something over the next few days.
And just like that, we’ve made sure that any painful parts of our process are being addressed so that they don’t stop us from continuing with the system as a whole. We’ve also made sure we don’t forget how well we’ve done with other aspects of the system, and we’ve made sure there aren’t any lurking emotional issues that we aren’t discussing. If our idea for not using points doesn’t work, then it’ll only be for a week and then we can re-adjust.
Classic ‘Scrum Master’ retros
Over time, Scrum Masters and Scrum teams have come up with many Sprint Retrospective games to lend a bit of variety to how we go about framing the discussion. Here are a few you could try. Of course, you can also modify these however you like, or come up with your own ideas, or ignore them all if they seem overly elaborate or like too much effort.
One thing that has worked for us in our retros as a couple is to write letters to each other. We set a timer for five or ten minutes and write down whatever we would like to say to the other person. We then swap the letters and read them, and then talk about any salient points, and come up with at least one action/experiment we can take from it and apply during our next sprint.
‘Liberating structures’ are a set of games and exercises that can be run instead of a traditional meeting, often to much better effect. As such they could also be useful for your Sprint Planning and Sprint Review sessions, but I think they are a particularly good fit for retrospectives. There are around thirty different structures, some of which are designed only for larger groups, but most will still be relevant, especially if you are using Home Scrum with a family of four or more.
For instance, one of them is called ‘1-2-4-All’ https://www.liberatingstructures.com/1-1-2-4-all/. Basically, it involves letting everyone individually have a few minutes to think about a topic, then discuss it in pairs for a fixed time, then in groups of four, and then as a whole group. Even with only four people I can see this being a useful structure for you to make sure that everyone has a chance to contribute.