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Agile Question of the Week

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How Teams Are Raising Engagement

Retrium Team

“How do you encourage engagement in remote retrospectives where the team isn’t speaking up?”


This question is the first in what we are calling the “Agile Question of the Week” series. We hope to enable community members to share answers from their experience for the benefit of all. 


Our Minimum Viable Product (MVP) has been a great success. 


We had so many incredible responses from amazing community members. That is both a blessing and a curse. While there is a LOT of great ideas in the comments (I recommend browsing them if you have time), I felt a summary would be helpful. 


Therefore, I present to you my best effort to summarize this post and its comments. My goal is to identify the top 10 comments for your benefit. I hope this is helpful to you.


Top 10 comments:

  1. From @Atlassian:
    We love this tip, Isaac! What a fun way to kick off a retrospective.
    Our Team Coaches also like to encourage intention setting. For example, asking the team members "What's one thing you'd like to take away or achieve by the end of this meeting?"
    Such great ideas in this thread! 🙌

  2. From @DavidHorowitz:
    In order to boost engagement in your retrospectives, find out why engagement is low in the first place, because there are different solutions to different problems! For example, if engagement is low because of low psychological safety, work on boosting it outside of the retro (play games together, share mistakes voluntarily, etc). If engagement is low because the retro is being run at an inconvenient time (Fri afternoons anyone?), try changing the day or time. In other words, you should run "5 Whys" on the low engagement problem to identify the root cause before working on solutions. Otherwise it's like throwing darts at the wall :) A lot more ideas here https://www.retrium.com/ultimate-guide-to-agile-retrospectives/increase-engagement-and-participation-in-your-retrospectives (full disclosure I wrote the article in the link!)

  3. From @GodwinNwaugha:
    I use a method called: Think, write, and share. I pair my team members and put them in breakout rooms and I give them 20 minutes to think, share and write. They will discuss and bring out actions steps for everyone to discus

  4. From @ToddScanlan:
    For my retros I always embed choice at each step and make sure the team knows they are in the driver's seat for the meeting and it's outcomes

  5. From @VickiBraun:
    Love this thread, Isaac, as well as the many responses you've received, lots of great points/questions (such as how to transition between fun icebreaker & less-fun inspecting the work)
    What I keep returning to: If folks aren't speaking up during retro, that's an opportunity for a SM/coach to work with the team *outside* the event. As others indicated, lack of engagement might signal lack of trust/safety...
    The way my last team dealt with that challenge was to set up a daily check in (their choice) at the end of day to just be together. Conversations ran from mundane (talk about pets, games, funny memes, sharing YouTube videos) to discussing current coding challenges. Really helped us become a cohesive group very quickly! Started as an experiment, it quickly became the team's fave touchpoint.

  6. From @BathulaSreenivassaRao:
    Show progress on what has been identified in earlier retrospectives and create an impression that retrospective items identified are indeed taken seriously and taken towards logical conclusion…
    This will help everyone in the team to come open and provide feedback…
    Providing an option to give feedback anonymously is another great option …
    End of the day, the team should feel that the retrospective is for their benefit and to help them rather than just a namesake event for someone else in the team with no seriousness ..

  7. From @ChristinaAmbers:
    Give questions ahead of time so your introverts and deep thinkers have time to craft their response.  Not everyone likes being put on the spot.

  8. From @ChrisStone:
    Icebreakers absolutely. The weirder the better. Everyone has a laugh, barriers come down and people find they are more able to engage.
    Another tip i find is to demonstrate vulnerability as a coach. Admit that I may not always have the answers and that I am learning from them as much as they from me.

  9. From @LeisePasser:
    First of all I would have to rest assured that they have psychological safety in the 'room' - and in the company. If not, then work on that first :)

  10. From @NickEmery:
    The practice of speaking in rounds is an easy way to ensure everyone has a chance to speak and loud voices don’t crowd out the quieter ones.
    Also, I find the Prototyping Work app helpful for good opening and closing round questions, if I’m not feeling creative and haven’t thought of one!!- https://check-inspiration.glideapp.io/ 


If you liked this post, be looking for future #AgileQuestionOfTheWeek and summary posts. 


If you would like to submit a question for a future post, send me a LinkedIn message. 


Agile On,

Isaac Garcia

Director of Community at Retrium


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