Recently I have been working with teams that are half in the UK and half in Poland. The purpose of this post is not to debate the merits behind co-location versus distributed as I am pretty sure anyone would choose to be co-located if they had the choice. The purpose of this post is to share my experiences and things I have found helpful if you are in that situation. I think it is worth remembering that as a ScrumMaster or Agile Coach sometimes the choice around co-location isn’t yours and you have to work with the bounds or parameters that your organisation has (at least in the short term).
Anyone who has read my previous posts will know that I am not a huge fan of tools but the tools for remote retrospectives are improving, they still aren’t as good as having people in the room and also limit the format options you have but their maturity is evolving.
My first remote retro I ever ran was using Skype for business white board. It was quite clunky but did allow you to draw and let people contribute. Recently I’ve been using FunRetro’s free tool which has been really well received. It does limit your options somewhat but does allow you to be creative with your “column” headings. Its also incredibly simple to use and all people need is the link and a device. We usually start up a Slack call to discuss whilst people collaborate on the board. FunRetro have launched a paid for version and if I am honest I cannot see the incentive to upgrade just yet but I’m sure if the product keeps evolving.
There are a few other tools out there which are listed below. As I said earlier the options and market are certainly evolving to help with remote retrospectives.
As mentioned earlier usually a slack call is started and this is the absolute minimum. However I’ve found that utilising video chat helps with the engagement in the room. Even if its is just a webcam for each room on the call seeing people really helps with the engagement between the participants.
In my recent experiences the remote retro’s have contained people from the UK and Poland and whilst the Polish members of the team speak very good English I have found allowing them some extra time than I would normally to discuss and understand anything posted on the retro helps. Not much more, maybe if i was doing an exercise to capture “what went well” if I planned for 3 minutes I may allow 4 or 5 minutes instead.
Get a Room
I find it easier to book a room at either end and get people into those rooms rather than sitting at their desks and dialling in. At people’s desks they have far too many distractions or background noise to focus on the retrospective properly.
These are my experiences but would love to hear from others in the comments of their experiences, tips or favourite tools.