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It’s well documented at this point that getting to know your peers on a personal level in a remote company is a challenge. Despite these challenges, prioritizing personal rapport and camaraderie is shown to improve collaboration, trust, overall team communication, and business outcomes. Plus, it’s a fun way to connect with others.😊
As part of our regular efforts in Retrium, we do something particularly special around this time of year.
Since Retrium’s inception, we have taken the time to meet IRL at least once a year.
Exceptions were made in 2020 and 2021 (for obvious reasons) when the retreat went virtual! Filled with Cooking classes, virtual escape rooms, and even a couple of murder mysteries.
While there are certainly ways to incorporate more social interactions in a virtual world, there is something about the feeling of putting down that draw four card in the last round of an epic Uno tournament that can’t be replicated in a virtual world. And - of course - all those spontaneous ideas that always seem to happen on elevator rides and late-night coffee runs.
So this year, the team decided it was time to meet again!
This time, we set our destination as Nashville, TN!
By plane, train, and automobile, and with cleared Covid tests, we came from across the US to the Hyatt Centric Downtown Nashville. While hugs, high fives, and elbow taps were shared we celebrated this new adventure for Retrium, and a chance to compare heights. 🧍
The first stop for any great week? Food!
Meeting at Assembly Food Hall we spent the night sharing our excitement over what was to come over the week, the key to a great old fashion, and generally rocking Trivia night! Fueled up and ready to paint the town, we split between roaming the neon lights or Broadway and bonding over the love of puzzles at The Escape Game.
The name of the game for our first full day was to create your own adventure.
After a brief opener from CEO David Horowitz, we organized different sessions based on the Open Space method.
Not to be confused with architectural open space, this form of open space encourages attendees to self-organize around topics they’re passionate about while moving freely between conversations and locations.
During our opening activity, we brainstormed different topics that we each wanted to discuss ranging from product design to the rules of frisbee golf to what is a pole (it's a tougher question than we thought!).
After dozens of great conversations and with ideas brewing, it was time to choose a new adventure.
As we would later discover it was in these moments that we not only got to see how co-workers in and out of their elements. For many of us, this was the first adventure in over two years. With every encouraging word after a missed swing or shouts of glee through the forest, we got to take our own deep breaths and remember what life was like before the agoraphobia started to creep in. Before doom scrolling and sanitizer checks became regular occurrences. It was a chance to get away from the screens entirely and find joy in the awkward silences and the spark of learning something new about someone you have spoken to for months.
Not to say the pandemic was forgotten. Sanitizer was always kept within arms reach, testing available, masks available, and social distancing accommodated. Because that’s part of the new normal, but that didn’t mean it had to be scary.
The last decision of the day was perhaps one of the most difficult for some; what to eat?!
We sat down at Etch and poured over our menu of delicious entrees and creative cocktails. Unfortunately, decisions over dessert proved too difficult, and comprise and halved cakes were shared. According to our content marketer, Jessica, the Almond Cake was the winning option.
While the early birds returned to their rooms, the night owls had more adventures to come, including a massive game night where allies were formed and egos were a little bruised.
We like to think we know a thing or two about effective communication-especially in a retro! But it wouldn’t be very agile of us to sit on our laurels and assume we know everything. This is why Wednesday morning was spent diving into different communication styles and examining how we speak through team issues and what it means to bring your authentic self to work every day.
After lunch, it was time for a fireside chat with Esther Derby and Diana Larsen.
You read that right! The Myth, The Legends, the two people that literally wrote the best-selling books Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great, and act as official advisors to Retrium, sat down with the team to share their insights and stories into what makes a great retrospective and what teams need to create a successful retro.
Derby and Larsen shared their lessons learned throughout the years and their unique thoughts on how the agile community was growing and the changes we might see to agile teams and retrospectives in the future.
“We are seeing the ideas of retrospectives- even if they don’t call it that- used in more and more teams. From these micro retros used after Pomodoro sessions where individuals and teams are looking at what needs to change for the next session to these larger retro and reflection sessions not associated with extreme programming or software.”
We even got a sneak preview at the new edition of Agile Retrospectives that they are co-writing with our very own David Horowitz. But those are surprises, we can’t share quite yet. 🤫
After our wonderful discussion with Esther and Diana, it was time for one last adventure group adventure. If you haven’t picked up our collective competitive spirit, it came out in full force at Game Terminal.
An arcade and game it was a chance to let loose one last time before flights started to break up our merry band. Over games of pinball, Mario cart, and corn hole we celebrated getting a chance to spend time together and discuss everything we have learned this week in a relaxed atmosphere.
While some elected to stay and explore some of Nashville’s sites including getting in a round of frisbee golf, exhaustion and homesickness started to creep in and it was time to start the process of goodbyes… after just one more taco.
To quote Diana and Esther,
Each person brings their unique experience and thoughts to the retreat, which is part of what makes it interesting. While some people love flying through the trees, others prefer a quiet game of shuffleboard or even some time in a hotel room to quietly reflect. It should not come as news that unique experiences and thoughts are the foundation for a collaborative environment. But perhaps, by getting out of the zoom square, we were able to better understand those differences, and even appreciate them a little more when we logged back on.