Agile Remote Retrospective 101

How to do a Remote Retrospective — Tools, Metrics, and Structure

Remote retrospectives: Learn the tools you need to master it

Anca Onuta


Agile Remote Retrospective for distributed teams — tools & techniques.
Remote Retrospective

What is a remote retrospective in Agile?

In Scrum, we have precise moments of planning, review progress, and learning, and improving. The retrospective enables the Scrum team to look behind on the sprint that passed and see what went well to continue doing it, what didn’t work, to stop it, and new things we should try. The retrospective is an intimate moment of honesty when we grow as a team. A remote retrospective represents an Agile retrospective where the participants are not face to face in the same meeting room, but connected remotely with the help of digital communication tools such as Zoom, Phone, Teams.

Who participates to the Agile Retrospective?

The retrospective is the event for the team, ONLY. No management, nobody outside the organization should participate. The main reason is because you want to discuss all those sensitive issues openly and the team to feel they aren’t judged. Face to face or remote retrospectives are an intimate time of the team. Keeping it only at the Scrum Team level is very important.

Who’s leading the Scrum Retrospective?

The Scrum Master facilitates the meeting call Scrum Retrospective.

My favorite digital tools for remote retrospectives are:

What to prepare for the remote retrospective:

  1. Decide on the theme of the retrospective.

2. Setup the digital board of the retrospective using an online tool. Prepare a sharable link that is easy to access for all the participants.

3. Gather data. The data helps the entire scrum team to learn about the things that went well, the sources of the deviations. The data supports the team to make informed decisions. The data must be accessible to everyone in a clear format. The team members must be able to visualize the metrics and to understand how they were gathered.

The most common retrospectives you can use while working remotely

  • Lacked / Learned / Like
  • Start / Stop / Continue
  • What went well / What didn’t go so well / New ideas to try
  • The weather retrospective: sun, clouds, storm

Ideas of less common remote retrospectives but that work very well for remote teams

  • Draw your retrospective — ask the teams to draw how was the sprint from their perspective and present it to their colleagues
  • The hero journey — appreciate the ones who help the team — it works very well after a tough sprint
  • Root cause analysis
  • The 5-whys
  • Effort & pain / pleasure & gain
  • Anchors and Engines

What data should you collect for the remote retrospective, and why?

  • number of bugs
  • user stories added during the sprint.
  • user stories remove from the sprint
  • user stories and story points moved to the next sprint
  • user story completion rate
  • user stories blocked
  • velocity

The reason why we gather all this information is that we want to analyze what could have impacted deviations from the plan so the team can take the needed corrective measures.

The agenda of a remote retrospective is

  1. Break the ice — remote teams need a warm-up, ice breaker to start to feel confident. The facilitator can use some jokes, so small talk to get everyone comfortable. I would recommend using video cameras.
  2. Set the Stage — welcome the participants. If you are remotely present, everyone who is part of the meeting for all the other participants to know. Introduce the list of the day and the tools the team will be using. Make sure everyone can access the tools you present, and they are clear for everyone.
  3. Gather Data — The scrum master shares with the team the data gathered and gathers more data from the scrum team if the case. The Scrum Master also helps with the interpretation of the data. It is essential to don’t spend more than 10 minutes on this.
  4. Generate Insights — Using one of the themes of your choice, allow everyone to insert their inputs into a digital tool. The active participation of all the team members is crucial for the success of the retrospective. Timebox the brainstorming to 5 minutes.
  5. Decide What to Do- ask everyone to vote a maximum of 3 topics they think it is essential to be discussed during the retrospective. After everyone voted, start from the items which received most of the votes. Discuss them with the team. Make sure the discussions are solution-oriented.
  6. Close the retrospective — wrap up the actions to be taken in the coming sprint and thank everyone for their efforts during the sprint.

What changes when you do a remote retrospective?

  • try to keep it short because watching a screen for a longer period of time might be tiring and the participants might lose the focus
  • You use a digital tool that is accessible for everyone
  • everyone starts to contribute to the same board
  • there are no chairs and tables that can avoid people more getting closer to the board and stick their post-its because everything is done in a digital tool
  • there is no personal aspect about it, therefore is required for the scrum master at breaking the ice at the beginning
  • You need to make sure that even the shyest speak
  • there is the need for more precise communication

You might be interested in: