Scrum Rules: As a Team Member I Attend Sprint Retrospective Meetings In-Person

August 5, 2020
4 minute read

The Sprint Retrospective meeting supports the Scrum value of Openness and the principle of inspect and adapt. This rule of Scrum also aligns with the Agile Manifesto principles “at regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.”

In-person attendance of all Scrum Team members allows for the fullest level of openness among Team Members which in turn is necessary to use the Retrospective to find improvements in how the team functions. If even one team member attempts to attend this meeting by any other means, either by phone or even video conferencing, efficiency and effectiveness of the openness and inspect and adapt becomes compromised. Compromise on these principles yields compromised collective ownership of improvement efforts. Lack of in-person participation increases the likelihood that the team will fail to implement improvements because the openness and inspect and adapt will lack effectiveness. This, in turn, hinders the team from reaching a high-performance state.

The Retrospective is one of the most difficult meetings in Scrum. The Scrum Master should be spending a substantial amount of time every Sprint preparing for this meeting. This preparation, and the visible signs of preparation to the team will be one of the most effective signs to the team members that it is an important meeting to be respected. In other words, if the Scrum Master puts lots of time into the Retrospective, the team members will respect it more. This preparation includes those things that will help attract team members to attend the meeting in-person. Here are some examples:

  1. Make sure that everyone on the team is clearly invited!
  2. Prepare an attractive physical space for the meeting.
  3. Give the team some advance notice about the focus of the Retrospective.
  4. Choose a mix of Retrospective techniques so that some are fun, some are serious, some are slow, some are fast, some involve physical activity, some are thoughtful, some are about specific topics, some are open-ended.

A Scrum Master should also be escalating any absence problems quite rapidly. The lack of team cohesion caused by failure to participate can be extremely detrimental to a team. The Scrum Master should, of course, start by approaching individuals for a one-on-one discussion. This discussion should be supportive and problem-solving oriented. If however, that does not improve things, then a discussion with a manager or other authority may be necessary. If the reason for attending remotely or non-attendance is supported by the organization, then the Scrum Master must work over a longer period to help the organization see the value of this critical meeting. It should be noted that a fully-distributed team that is working to improve how they operate should consider the Retrospective the highest-priority candidate for any in-person opportunities, even if it is not done this way every Sprint. That is, if a distributed team is considering spending some time in-person, then that time should include a well-planned Retrospective.

The Sprint Retrospective is an opportunity for the Scrum Team to inspect itself and create a plan for improvements to be enacted during the next Sprint. — The Scrum Guide

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Bruce Power
Capital One
Equitable Life of Canada
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