Slowly but surely summer is coming to an end. You would like to stay outside and enjoy the last sunrays of late sommer, but you’re sitting in a conference room moderating yet another retrospective… Wait, isn’t one of the goals of scrum to have non-repetitive retrospectives? So, why not do an outside retrospective?
Here a three formats you can go with:
- Walk and talk retrospectives
- Outdoor retrospectives
- Combination of out- and indoor restrospectives
Walk and talk retrospectives
Doing your retrospective outside while taking a walk is a nice way for the team to have a little break from their usual office setup. Walking and fresh air keep the brain going. Furthermore, my teams often give the feedback that walking helps them to speak about difficult topics.
Here is how we do it at ePages:
- Start in the team space: Throw a ball and ask everyone how they are feeling today.
- Give guiding questions. I always prepare short printouts for everyone.
- Explain the route you’ll go, and agree on where and when to meet for wrap-up.
- Wrap up with the whole team discussing what everyone learned. This can also be outside using a ball to throw.
Some more things to keep in mind:
- Make sure to agree on a start and endpoint known by every team member, so no one gets lost.
- If possible, try not to walk next to noisy roads because this could hinder conversation.
- Split up in teams of 2-3, so that people can hear each other. You might switch groups after half of the time has passed.
- Make sure to have a wrap-up with everyone. Either ask “What have you learned today?”, “What do you take out of this retrospective?”, or “What action item will you take with you?”. This way the team and you get an idea about what the other team members talked about. I usually take notes when doing the wrap-up and add those statements or action items to the retro documentation.
Extra tip: If you’d definitely like to get action items out of the walk and talk, you might give the team members more concrete questions for their walk: “What bothered you most during the last iteration?” or “What can you do about it to improve the situation? Find at least one actionable task.” The action items can then be shared with everyone in the final wrap-up.
If you have a nice and quiet space outside your office, you might as well do a proper retrospective outdoors. It is important that the location is really quiet (no street noise, street works, etc.) and also sheltered from wind. In a windy location team members might not understand each other as the wind takes the voice into different directions. Inner courtyards are perfect for this. You could then also use the walls of the buildings for hanging up flipcharts and stickies. If the location is close to your office, you could also take a flipchart stand outside.
Nevertheless, you should always be careful with such an outside location and test everything beforehand. It can be really annoying for the team if they can’t hear each other, or if the stickies are blown away by the wind.
Combination of out- and indoor retrospectives
If your team is not that experienced or you are worried about an actionable outcome, you might as well combine an indoor with an outdoor retrospective. The agenda can be roughly compared to a walk and talk retrospective. But the team spends more time inside, and the topic identification as well as the discussion are more guided. This could be an agenda:
- Start in a conference room with gathering stickies, grouping the topics, and finding 3-5 topics to discuss.
- Split the team into groups and let each group choose a topic to discuss about and to create action items for.
- Let the groups take a walk while discussing the topics (20 minutes).
- Meet again in the meeting room and let everyone present their topics.
As you can see, there are different ways to jazz up your retrospectives by doing them outdoors. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do an outdoor retrospective yet, because all locations near our office are not quiet enough. But we’re a big fan of walk and talk retrospectives.
What are your experiences with doing outdoor retrospectives? Did you manage to find a location that is quiet enough? Do you even have other ideas? We’d be happy to hear your thoughts on Twitter!