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Evaluate your Team

For a scrum team, 100% of every sprint is focused on the needs of the stakeholders and the end users, but the principles behind agile say that teams need to reflect regularly on how to be more effective and adjust their behaviours accordingly.

In scrum, this principle has taken shape as the Team Retrospective, or Retro for short. This is the one time every sprint when the focus is not on the product, it's on the team itself.

Since the focus is on the team and team processes, the Scrum master facilitates this ceremony. In order to have a successful retro, you must have a safe environment. As a result, this is a closed-door session. The team must know that only dedicated team members will be present and that the team norms will be observed. This sense of safety is essential to ensuring the open dialogue that's needed to honestly assess the way the team is working together.

Usually the agenda for the retro is simple. It consists of three questions. What worked well?, What did not work well? and What will we improve?

While everything on this list is important, be sure to start with the Team's successes first. I know this sounds backwards. We're here to get better, why focus on what we already do well? But in order to help the team stay away from responding defensively, you need to appreciate them first.

Fill their emotional bank accounts before you start sharing the improvement areas. When you focus on question one, pay attention to everything the team did well that's within their control. This includes:

  • Examples of great collaboration both inside and outside the team.
  • Recognize things the team has done to help each other out.
  • Be sure to full focus on the team itself, not the stories they have completed.

By focusing on success, the team creates a positive behaviour loop.

They'll want to become better so they have more to celebrate the next time. When moving to question two, what didn't go well, be sure to focus on things that you can change, not on outside groups or tools that are beyond your control. For example, perhaps your team needs to use a specific testing tool and the tool is slow. Your improvement area wouldn't be to fix the tool, it would be to find a better way to use the tool more effectively.

All the other tools scrum teams use are about the product. The retro is powerful because it's about the team itself. Remember, scrum is a framework that can only be successful when the team is healthy and focusing on improving themselves as well as their product.