Even if a remote or online retro means that not everyone is physically in the same room, the goals and principles of Agile do not change. Agile is about the process.
An in-person retrospective means you have to book a room, set it up, draw things on boards, check the logistics and collate sticky notes afterward. For remote retros, the focus is more on having the right video conferencing tool (Zoom, MS Teams, Skype) and having an online retrospective tool to collaborate effectively. It’s not just a stream of chats, unorganized sticky notes, or someone trying to scribe what is said and not being able to join in themselves.
According to this 3,500 large State of Remote Work report, working from home is on the rise with the benefits of flexibility, no commute time and family time being some key benefits. On the other hand, collaboration, communication and loneliness represent 40% of the biggest challenges. Retrospectives are then both an opportunity and a challenge. It is a time that people can come together and an opportunity to share and learn from each other in a supportive environment. The pros and cons of remote online retrospectives are:
- Easier for people to meet
- Ability to have asynchronous retrospectives
- Real-time feedback
- No manual collation
- Equal opportunity for people to contribute
- Independent brainstorming and voting
- Anonymous options
- More time for discussion and team ponding
- No more production blocks or anchoring ( 1 person talking about their idea)
- No room set up
- A loss of all body language ques
- A potential loss in a general sense of togetherness
- Reliance on technology for video conferencing and collaboration tools
- Facilitating a remote retrospective is more challenging.
It’s important with online retrospectives to find ways to build reports and ensure that every voice in the room is “heard”. You may not have to prep a room, but you still need to prep for the session.
The need to continue to build engagement, connection, participation, and buy into decisions applies to both types of retrospectives, albeit with slightly different strategies.