A decade back, remote retrospective used to happen via conference calls. But now trends are changing. Companies are becoming more and more remote-friendly. Also, because of technology, now the world is very well connected.

When we work with remote teams, we feel it might be challenging to conduct a retrospective effectively. However, in today's time, it is much more comfortable because we have better video conferencing services and online tools such as the sticky-note like comments for the retrospective.

Some companies work full-time remote and some provide partial remote, like our company Kiprosh. Hence, there is a good probability of having all the members of a team completely remote on any particular day. In such teams, remote retrospectives are very useful & effective. All thanks to technology, now we have many tools to do a compelling retrospective.

To perform this retrospective, I utilized the following tools:

  • Trello Board (Free Tool)
  • Zoom or any other video conferencing tool such as Hangout/Skype/Slack call etc.
  • Good headphone
  • And a smooth internet connection ๐Ÿ˜‰

Getting started

Let's dial-in for the video-call on Zoom or your preferred means of video conferencing.

Usually, whenever I start with my retrospective, I begin with an ice-breaking session, especially when

  • doing it with the team for the first or second time
  • the team lacks camaraderie
  • the team dynamics are new (where there is an influx of new team members)

As they say:

When our heart opens up, we are more receptive and open

For remote retrospective, we begin with an ice-breaking session named - "I appreciate you,"

People will be open when they are happy and welcomed, and nothing works better than appreciation.

We used Trello for "I appreciate you" ice-breaking session. I love Trello for its simplicity. In Trello, we can see all the activities in realtime, be it card creation, movement, or deletion. Trello has excellent features like custom labels, due date, checklist, and tag people on the card. All these are quite useful for the online retrospective, and I used most of it.

As per this ice-breaking session, each member has to appreciate the other members. Write one Trello card per member and add label in Trello card with the member name or start the card with a person name. We give 10 minutes for this exercise, and as it is time-bound, the team stays focused on writing their cards. We start seeing realtime appreciations coming in Trello.

Once done, we go over all the appreciations and clap for the members. Post this exercise, atmosphere is all warm and happy. Team members are more receptive, and the conversation gets started.

Time to Retrospect

Now the time to move on to the remote team retrospective. For the retrospective first, I created three lists in the Trello board. Feel Fantastic About, Feel Not So Good About, and Continue Doing. On-call, I asked everyone to start creating cards for the Feel Fantastic About list. One card per item. The team started pouring in their thoughts. Now Trello card acted as sticky-notes.

(I see many benefits of using Trello card as sticky-notes - save paper, do not lose the data and no issue of lousy glue sticky-notes ๐Ÿ˜‰)

Once the Feel Fantastic About list completed, the team moved to Feel Not So Good About and Continue Doing. Once everyone finished adding cards for the three lists, I created one more list of Action Items.

Now we discussed all the cards in the three lists. We started with Feel Fantastic About. In Feel Fantastic About, we got some areas where the team has performed excellently, so the whole team clapped.

During our discussion on Feel Not So Good About and Continue Doing, we came up with the action Items. Then the team came up with suggestions to overcome issues. I started creating the Action Items in the Action Item List. Finally, we had useful Action Items ready.

Once Action Items were ready, we started assigning items to the team member(s). I also created two more lists in the Trello, Doing, and Done. Each card labeled with priority (high, medium, and low), due-date, and team member(s) tagged to the card. Also, I added a checklist on the card where we got excellent suggestions.

With Trello, we can be more productive, even post retrospective.

As soon as the team member starts working on action-items, they move those cards to Doing. And once completed, then proceed to Done.

In the next retrospective, the previous retrospective Trello board becomes handy as we can quickly see the completed and overdue Action Items.

Summary ย 

It is possible to have a very productive retrospective with remote teams by using technology in the right way. Also, it can be more streamlined because of tools like Trello.

If you enjoyed this post, It'll be great if you'd share it with your friends or share it on social media. If you tried this retrospective, then let me know how did it go and if any suggestion, then please do share.

Thanks to Yassal Sundman post. While I was writing my blog, I happened to read her blog on similar lines. Also, Fun Retrospectives is one of my favorite sites to get ideas about retrospectives.
Also, special thanks to my colleagues Prachi Shah, Aman Garg and Kavita ย for the content review.