How to close your agile retrospective meeting

September 11, 2020

The work isn’t done for the facilitator when the agile retrospective meeting ends. There are some key steps you’ll want to take to make sure the meeting is as effective as possible and we’re here to give you all the secrets for post-meeting success.

The meeting recap

Be sure to write down or export all of the various items in the meeting and have them organized by their respective lists. Treat it as a the general meeting minutes for the team to have for future reference. You don’t need to include the author but you should maintain the point itself, what list it came from, and if possible, how many votes it received. Try to write them down in the order they were covered as well or if your team was discussing them based on which received the most votes, be sure to stay true to that ranking in the recap. The goal isn’t just to get what was covered but to understand its context relevant to the other items in the sprint (which is why the votes can be a real tell). Bonus point if you are able to include items that were suggested for the meeting but were not covered -- hold on to these for later because they are not throwaways and can lead to important insights for you.

The action items

The key to any good sprint retrospective is having good action items. As you review each item and devise action items, at the end of the meeting, quickly review the entire list with the team and RANK the action items as well. Denoting importance to them reinforces the accountability the team needs to enact change. Where possible, assign owners to the action items and put them directly into the team’s engineering backlog tools (JIRA, Tracker, GitHub, etc.) to ensure they are can’t miss.

Archiving the meeting and action items

Once you have the meeting recap ready to go with the lists, topics covered in each list with their votes, topics that weren’t covered, and the ranked action items with the assigned owners ready to go, send it to the team through the preferred communication tool (Slack, Teams, email, etc.). If any action items are meant for the engineering team, have them added to the backlog in JIRA, Tracker, GitHub, etc. Then take that master recap and add it to the running wiki or shared drive resource to store the team’s ongoing retrospective history.

The follow ups

The A+ effort that can help you smooth as many things over as possible for your team is to, if possible, speak to the authors of the topics that weren’t discussed and listen to their notes. Find out if something is urgent or pressing and requires deeper attention. You don’t want anyone to go unheard or feel excluded. I’ve found the deepest connections with team members are made here and often times it’s the quietest people here on the fringe who fall off and become disengaged in future meetings feeling like they can’t get a note in. It can feel over the top but the point of these meetings is to have important topics opened up and worked on and it will give you the insight if you need to push something before the next meeting or even throw your weight behind it for the next agile retrospective.

It’s a lot more than saying “That’s a wrap, thanks!” How you manage these nuances dictate your effectiveness as a facilitator, PM, SM, or team lead and your team will notice. The goal isn’t to just have the meeting -- it’s to communicate, identity opportunities for improvement, and then actually put action behind those opportunities.

You have to listen hard and dig a bit deeper to create real change. Once the meetings just feel like you’re going through the motions, then no one is going to want to participate. Especially if it’s a Friday afternoon tradition. Best of luck!

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