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Retros Are the New Black: How to Cultivate Continuous Improvement Across Teams

Retros Are the New Black: How to Cultivate Continuous Improvement Across Teams

Raw engineering talent is important to achieve business and product needs; however, it is also important to make space to improvement team dynamics in order to maximize the effectiveness of individuals and maintain emotionally healthy working environments. One tactic to achieve this is to organize team retros on a regular cadence.

Retros, when executed properly, empower individuals to give and receive blameless honest feedback. Done wrong or not at all, resentment can build and lead to a toxic engineering culture. In this talk, learn techniques to build inclusive environments, enable reflection and open communication, and motivate teams to take action. Walk away with a plan for implementing retros with your team. Take your first step towards continuous improvement.

This talk will be particularly beneficial to engineers who shape team dynamics or one in a position to introduce a new process to a team. Depending on how one's team is organized, this includes Product Managers, SCRUM masters, or an aspiring team lead. Attendees will learn what a retro is, and best practices for how to introduce, moderate, and follow up on retros within their company.


Jacqueline Sloves

May 14, 2019

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  1. Retros are the New Black How to Cultivate Continuous Improvement

    Across Teams By Jacqueline Sloves @jacquelionroars
  2. What is a Retro? @jacquelionroars The 12th and final Principle

    of Agile Development: At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.
  3. History of Retros @jacquelionroars • Virginia Satir, the "mother of

    family therapy" develops the Daily Temperature Reading in 1970s • Agile manifesto published in 2001
  4. TLDR @jacquelionroars • How did it go? ◦ What went

    well? ◦ What didn't go well? • Action Items
  5. Today @jacquelionroars 1. What is a Retro? ✅ 2. Why

    have retros? 3. How to Implement 4. Example 5. I did a retro… ... now what?
  6. Why have a Retro? @jacquelionroars • Continuous Improvement ◦ Collectively

    brainstorm solutions ◦ Do more of what is going well • Proactively surface pain points in a healthy way ◦ Recognize patterns or systemic issues early ◦ Equitable and blameless environment • Team Alignment ◦ Democratic process ◦ Leads to employees who feel heard
  7. Retro Flow Chart @jacquelionroars 1. Gather Input

  8. Retro Flow Chart @jacquelionroars 1. Gather Input 2. Briefly Discuss

  9. Retro Flow Chart @jacquelionroars 1. Gather Input 2. Briefly Discuss

    3. Vote
  10. Retro Flow Chart @jacquelionroars 1. Gather Input 2. Briefly Discuss

    3. Vote 4. Deep Dive
  11. Retro Flow Chart @jacquelionroars 1. Gather Input 2. Briefly Discuss

    3. Vote 4. Deep Dive 5. Action Items
  12. Example @jacquelionroars Some names and identifying details have been changed

    to protect the privacy of ClassDojo. Also, there are no spoilers...
  13. Step 1: Gather Input @jacquelionroars

  14. Step 2: Briefly Discuss @jacquelionroars

  15. Step 3: Vote @jacquelionroars


  17. Step 5: Action Items @jacquelionroars

  18. Retro Flow Chart @jacquelionroars 1. Gather Input 2. Briefly Discuss

    3. Vote 4. Deep Dive 5. Action Items
  19. Qualities of a Successful Retro @jacquelionroars • Regular Cadence •

    Entirely Blameless • The Good & The Bad • Results & Action Oriented • Open & Honest
  20. Beware! @jacquelionroars • No Complaining! • No personal attacks! ◦

    Personal compliments OK :) • Focus on Outcomes!
  21. The Nitty-Gritty @jacquelionroars • How much time? • Who facilitates?

    • In what context? • At what cadence?
  22. How much time? @jacquelionroars 1.Gather Input ~10min 2. Briefly Discuss

    ~10min 3. Vote ~5 min 4. Deep Dive ~20 min 5. Action Items ~ 10 min Time Box It! ~1hr
  23. Who facilitates? @jacquelionroars • Often the PM, SCRUM master •

    but… anyone can!
  24. In what context? @jacquelionroars • Across cross-functional teams • Domain

    specific ◦ iOS, Android, mobile, web, infra, product • Engineering org
  25. At what cadence? @jacquelionroars • Product development dependent ◦ Release

    Cycle ◦ Sprint • Time Interval ◦ every x weeks
  26. What if your issue doesn't get voted? @jacquelionroars

  27. Now what? @jacquelionroars • Send out the notes • Each

    Action Item should have at least 1 person responsible • Start your next retro by going over the previous retro's action items
  28. Ways to Customize @jacquelionroars • Anonymous Suggestions • Anonymous Voting

    • # of Votes • Escalate carryover items get • Tools
  29. Experiment! Iterate! @jacquelionroars • I encourage you to try this

    on your team and experiment • Find a process that works for your team
  30. Conclusion @jacquelionroars The core idea is… - regularly reflect -

    democratically discuss - continuous improvement Happy Retro-ing!
  31. Questions?

  32. Resources @jacquelionroars • Template • Atlassian's Retro Playbook • Agile

    Manifesto • 4 questions & History of Retros
  33. Keep in Touch! @jacquelionroars • What went well? • What

    could be improved? jacqueline@classdojo.com https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacquelinesloves/