How we improved the communication between developers and designers thanks to retrospectives (and how to do it yourself)

Thanks to the retrospective we were improved quickly our team communication issues. It’s easy, and you can do it too.

Author

Samuel Giacomelli

21 Apr 2020

After a few weeks of work from home, we realized that the distance brought some communication issues. Thanks to the retrospective and some tools for remote working, we were able to make adjustments quickly and improve our working fashion. It’s easy, and you can do it too: it is all explained in this article.

What is a Retrospective?

The retrospective is not just a meeting: it’s much more. It’s an opportunity for the team to take a breath, slow down the frenetic pace of the projects, and take a moment to reflect on their work. What are we doing? Are we doing it well? How can we improve?

Why did we start doing it?

From one moment to another our company moved from the office to fifteen different houses. Not working in the same space anymore means losing those moments when, behind a coffee or a plate of lasagna (we are Italians!), we used to talk about our team, about the things that worked well, those that didn’t and what we could have done to solve them. Without opportunities like those, there was the risk of leaving important elements for our growth on the street.

How does it work?

Before the Retrospective

Moderator

The first step of a retrospective is finding the moderator. It can be the team leader, but we prefer to opt differently. Participants are more interested and proactive if a team member wears the moderator’s hat. The moderator has to inform the other participants on the modalities, make sure that the timings are respected, that everyone is allowed to speak and that the retrospective is effective. I know it doesn’t seem like a task for everyone, but the reality is that everyone should at least try to cover this role.

Time timer

The tools

A retrospective needs just a few things: a timer, a wall, post-its, and a marker each. It’s like that when all the participants are in the same room, but when they all are remote?

Il team durante un meeting

Miro has arrived in our aid. It’s an application that allows you to manage virtual whiteboards collaboratively in real-time. It also comes with an integrated timer, crazy!

During the Retrospective

Alignment on the starting line

Before going live, the moderator has the task of defining:

  • the time span for the retrospective,
  • the goal,
  • the mentality needed to achieve it.

A few examples:

Period Objective Mentality
Last sprint
- Last month
- Since the beginning of the project
Improve the way the team works 1. Be self-critical,before shifting the criticism to another team member
2. Keep an open mind, accept criticism and recognize your mistakes
3. Maintain a team vision,You don’t win or lose on your own. You win or lose as a team.

What worked? (~ 10 min)

The retrospective begins with a positive atmosphere. You don’t need rainbows and unicorns but consider that it is a moment of criticism and it is not easy for everyone.

Each participant writes their answers to this question on post-its. The moderator collects them and groups them. Once everyone is done, the group shares the most interesting ones to identify behaviors and habits that are positive for the team, the ones you should keep doing.

What needs to be improved? (~ 10 min)

The mode remains the same as in the previous part, but now we are talking about the negative aspects.

The goal becomes to find out what are the harmful habits, the ones that ruin the team’s climate and productivity.

What do we do to improve? (~ 5 min)

Now that everyone knows what aspects are not working, it’s time to figure out what can be done to prevent them from happening again. Each team member writes on post-its the concrete actions that he or the others can perform to improve.

The moderator groups them and leads the discussion about them. Single actions are assigned to one or more team members, and a deadline is decided for each.

After the Retrospective

The first thing to do is to find some space on the agenda for the next retrospective because only by making it a regular appointment it allows you to continue improving.

The easy part is done, here comes the difficult part: it’s time to act and put a check on the actions that we set out to do.

Be more careful when documenting a mockup and reply quickly to your work chats. It takes effort, true, but it allows everyone to work better. It didn’t work? We’ll talk about it at the next retrospective.

What were the results?

With the advent of remote work, our development team realized that they were spending all day on video calls and the design team complained about the lack of a structured way to get feedback on their and others’ work. In the first retrospectives, these problems came to light and we immediately moved together to try to solve them.

We have moved communication from single chats to shared channels to spread the knowledge, and we have created dedicated channels and structures for feedback requests.

In addition to this, everyone has put some effort into communicating more effectively because they were aware of solving a problem shared by others.

We know that we have not invented asynchronous communication with a retrospective. We also know that this is just the first of many steps, but we are very confident about the improvement of the teams because thanks to this methodology we have been able to bring out a problem and make all an improvement together.

Retrospectives are a path that leads to small and continuous improvements, but above all, they are a commitment to tackle team problems as a team.

Retrospective on Miro

Do you want to run a retrospective?

Here’s a free template we made for you. Use it as a starting point.

Author

Samuel Giacomelli

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