5 simple strategies to make your next remote retrospective more engaging

4 min read
Kacy Boone
  •  Mar 19, 2021
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A retrospective, in plain terms, is looking back. Thumb through any self-improvement book and you’ll likely find the concept positioned as the trick to successfully moving forward. Born from mindfulness, retrospectives are woven into our human DNA. So, why wouldn’t we expand this reflect-to-improve exercise to our teams?

Finding better ways to remotely build your team should be a priority for 2021— especially as we’re going to be doing this for a while. Retrospectives are great because anytime you get your whole team together with an open floor for chatting, you’re bound to have a fruitful discussion. By simply putting retros on the calendar and building them into your team’s rhythm, you’ll grow your team’s trust.

But, with some added structure, you can make these magical meetings even more engaging and productive. Here, five easy-to-implement strategies for improving your retrospectives in a remote work environments:

1. Set clear expectations for participation

Every team member should go into the meeting knowing how to participate. For example, do you expect everyone to turn their video on? Reading body language and picking up on communication cues can be tough if, say, half the meeting participants don’t have video enabled. Also, encourage team members to step away from Slack or e-mail during the retro. Reinforce that the room is a safe space by stating the team’s orientation towards exposing issues and taking action.

2. Mix up the format 

While making sure your retrospective’s structure invites participation, try changing the format weekly. By mixing it up, you can evoke different responses from the team. At InVision, rather than ask for volunteers, we rotate through assigned facilitators.

3. Greet everyone by name as they join the meeting

If meeting in-person, you’d walk into a conference room and feel the energy as you greet your teammates. But how do you replicate this IRL experience in a virtual meeting? At InVision, we play music for the first few minutes as team members enter the meeting. It gives everyone a break before focusing on the meeting. A subtle, yet important step here is greeting every person by name. They’ll feel seen and will more confidently speak up during the retro.

4. Start with some easy questions 

Begin the meeting with some lightweight questions that everyone must answer. Here’s some examples:

  • “How would you describe the past sprint?”
  • “How would you describe the last two weeks in a word?”
  • “If our team was a vehicle traveling down the highway in our last sprint, what would it be? A tricycle? A minivan? A convertible?”

These low-investment but creative questions get people thinking and talking.

5. Use a template

If you’re looking for an easy starting point for a remote retrospective, we have a template you can use that’s designed specifically for these meetings: The plug-and-play Freehand Retrospective Template. The online whiteboard has a low learning curve and can provide prompts like “what went well?” “what needs improvement?” and “next steps.” This encourages team members to participate by writing down ideas on sticky notes and then bring them to the main retrospective board.

Want to run your best retrospective?

Level up your retro game with real-life tactics from InVision product specialist Kacy Boone and product manager Elle Ky. During this session, Kacy and Elle hand over their best tips for running effective remote retros that encourage max collaboration. Learn their step-by-step process, from set up to follow up, so that you’re leading your team through inclusive, thought provoking conversation.

Watch the talk now

Collaborate in real time on a digital whiteboard