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How to Run a Retrospective Meeting with Large Groups

What is the essence of a retrospective meeting? To tell you shortly, it is to provide clues for future improvements.

Retrospective meetings are an important part of teams that use agile and scrum methodology: at the end of an iteration, teams assess what worked, what didn’t work, and what could be improved.

But very often there is a need to conduct retrospective meeting with multiple delivery teams or at the company-wide level to surface issues impacting the entire company, make announcements, or celebrate personal accomplishments.

retrospective-meeting

In this article I will explore some retrospective meeting ideas to conduct with a dozen of people.
 

1. Craft the retrospective meeting agenda together

The first important step starts even before the retrospective meeting. And it is to let the participants have their input in the retrospective meeting agenda. It will help:

  • Narrow down to the top.
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  • Avoid making a retrospective meeting a waste of time
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  • Prevent employees getting bored and start to yawn during the speeches.
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    Use an appropriate platform to let employees have their input in a retrospective meeting agenda either openly or anonymously.

    One such helpful platform is Swift Polling. Create an open-ended question, word cloud, or a multiple-choice poll asking your employees to throw in their suggestions.

    1. To be more specific, I would suggest to create a multiple choice poll with the top priority topics and ask your employees to vote for the ones they find more crucial to discuss. Based on the results you can choose, for example, the first 6 topics that will gather the most votes.

    Employees can send their responses either through web (internet access is required) or via sms(internet not needed).
     
    2. With Swift you can also create word clouds. Word clouds show the repetitive responses with larger letters and in a different color, so it will be obvious which topics should be addressed first. Moreover, others will be able to see what the rest of the team thinks, therefore, it could be helpful to get some hints.
     
    3. Finally, you can go with an open-ended format and encourage your employees simply send in their top 3-5 topics that they think should be discussed.

    Having a well-agreed agenda is one of the most important preliminary tasks to do for retrospective meetings.
     

    2. Provide a secure environment

    To gather useful and valuable information, you should first of all provide a secure environment for the presenters. Many of the attendees may be shy and introverted, so they will not be willing to express their opinion loudly, especially in front of managers. Try to avoid formal speaker-audience environment trying to create a more friendly one.

    To create an environment where everybody will speak up, you should initiate and conduct some activities, including:

    1. Try to understand what makes participants feel free and express their opinion. You can collect that information anonymously and quickly using one of the appropriate platforms(we suggest your old friend Swift Polling). Afterward, display the results in real time and discuss with all of them the ways to overcome the obstacles to secure environment . Only then continue the retrospective meeting according to the agenda.

    2. Warm up the environment using icebreaker activities: a brief icebreaker makes a difference in the resulting employee conversations and helps them to know each other better.
     

    3. Listen to all participants

    A successful retrospective meeting is the one where all the participants have an equal opportunity to speak up and express their opinion. Only in this way you can collect some really useful feedback.

    For that first of all you need to manage time carefully and to keep the employees focused.

    Just avoid non-constructive discussions and guide the team to the sessions.

    However that may not be enough for hearing all the participants, that’s why I suggest you to again apply technologies and the mentioned polling platform. It will enable you to:

    1. Collect feedback from many employees simultaneously saving the meeting time.

    2. Reveal the opinion of employees that is still feel uncomfortable to speak up.

    3. Display the results in real time to the whole audience, and if needed, kick of a discussion based on the outcome.
     

    4. Run an inclusive Q&A

    In every kind of meeting, be it retrospective, all-hands, off-site or else, questions-and-answers(Q&A) time is always one of the most game-changing parts. And to have a successful retrospective meeting, it is preferable to make Q&A more effective too. How?

    What I suggest is the following:
    1. Allocate enough time for the Q&A sessions.

    2. Hold them at appropriate time slots, such as after the speech of each presenter.

    3. Make them more transparent by asking employees to submit their questions via web anonymously.

    To realize the third point I again suggest you go with an online Q&A tool for the following reasons:
     

  • People will send their questions once those arise before any delay.
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  • Even shy and introverted people will participate, as the whole process is without extra talking.
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  • Very subtle or “hard-to-ask” questions can be asked since the software provides anonymity.
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  • Speakers can filter the questions and answer the ones they consider more crucial and suitable for discussion.
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    5. Incorporate remote members too

    If there are remote team members, they should definitely be included in the whole process to have a productive retrospective meeting.

    When participants are physically not in the same room, it is easier for them to lose attention and get distracted.

    Using the polling platform is an amazing way to pull them back in and make sure they are following. It will enable them to equally participate in the important processes I’ve mentioned: to select important topics to be included in the agenda, to share their opinion, to send feedback, and to participate in the Q&A.

    Running a retrospective meeting with large groups is always challenging. However, with the carefully generated and implemented retrospective meeting ideas it becomes a useful means to gather feedback and improve the team spirit.



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