For remote workers in agile teams: how do your team do retros?

almost 6 years ago from , User Experience Designer

I recently joined a company that is all-in on agile, but very immature when it comes handling remote employees. I occasionally need to work remote, and have figured out how to make most of the other agile process stuff like iteration planning and standups work, but I'm flummoxed when it comes to retros.

The company currently runs retros that rely heavily on sticky notes, whiteboarding, and a lean coffee-esque process.

I know there are tools that facilitate lean coffee with distributed teams, but would love to hear any real-world examples of how teams make it work.


  • Chris Gallello, almost 6 years ago

    The Purple.pm team is remote. IMO the more important thing is that the person running the retro asks the right questions. But because we're remote, we use Google Sheets - we have a column for "What went well", "What risks do we face", "What could have gone better", and "Action Item". And then a separate sheet for each week.

    Types of questions I ask: * Anything you guys are proud of this week? * { Name } was there anything that didn't go well for you? (if I notice one person is quiet) * Are there any parts of our process that you all felt like are slowing you down?

    We also do the blameless retro thing. Even if one person dropped the ball one something, we think of it as "how should the process change so that it doesn't happen again?" rather than "hey, that person dropped the ball".

    Lastly, at the start of each retro, we look through the action items of the previous week and check to see if they were accomplished, then duplicate the sheet to start this week's retro.

    Hope this helps!

    7 points
  • Eduardo OsorioEduardo Osorio, almost 6 years ago

    [Retrium](www.retrium.com) is a really good tool. Been using for some time and it really ties the team together.

    0 points
  • Theresa MershonTheresa Mershon, almost 6 years ago

    On teams with remote workers we switched from paper and pens to using realtimeboard.com for collaborative white boarding and all related retro activities. We also use it for feature planning, design working sessions, etc. Previously we were using mural.ly but we switched to realtimeboard because the pricing and account structure worked better for our teams make up. We use zoom for our meetings, along with slack for discussion, team channels, discipline-based channels etc -- this works reliably to connect us.

    I'm not a remote worker but some of the people I manage are remote from my office. One thing I've noticed is that mixed (some remote/some in local office) teams tend to struggle more than all-local or all-remote teams.

    The remote workers on mixed teams need to work harder to be part of their team's lives and stay up to date on changes and adjustments. Remote workers also need to be comfortable with the fact that sometimes decisions happen in real time without them. It's the job of the team to communicate well with each other but in mixed groups I think there is an added burden of "not holding each other back" and "staying in sync" that isn't as much of an issue when a whole team is remote and working sessions, communication, ceremonies and socialization are all happening via internet connection.

    0 points
  • Mark Cipolla, almost 6 years ago

    Well! The team I work with at The Conversation has a number of remote team members. We had the same problem: we used a whiteboard, and that makes it hard for our remote colleagues to fully take part. Hence, RemoteRetro.

    An online retro board, that everyone can log into. If you try it out, we'd love to hear your thoughts.


    As far as process, we open a retro wall and drop the URL in Slack early in the week... usually Tuesday / Wednesday. This gives us time to deal with the previous week's action items, and start putting down things that are good / bad / new questions as they happen.

    Since we're not in one timezone, the majority of the team do a retro, record the video, and leave the retro wall open for our int'l colleagues to join in. We do schedule retros where the majority of the team shift their work hours so our international team members can join in as well... it's not great that they aren't fully able to join in every week... but at least leaving the wall open gives it a sense of asynchronicity, and we make the effort to make a rather synchronous event happen for as many people as possible as frequently as possible.

    0 points
  • Aaron SagrayAaron Sagray, almost 6 years ago

    Trello is a great substitute for sticky notes during Retros.

    0 points
  • Umesh Patil, almost 6 years ago

    In our company we are using slack standuply app which is really helpull to gather all tasks even you can use trello in it

    0 points
  • Thomas MathewThomas Mathew, almost 6 years ago

    I'd recommend Mural for sticky notes and 'whiteboarding lite.' It's super smooth and easy to learn.

    I'd also recommend emphasizing the need for advance preparation (honestly, this should be important for any meeting but becomes glaringly obvious with remote teams) and asynchronous updates (not everything has to be done at the same time in the same room—figure out what does and doesn't need real-time collaboration).

    0 points
  • Adrian HowardAdrian Howard, almost 6 years ago

    I've done remote retros with trello — hell a few times with a shared google sheets page! Also with various virtual whiteboard/post it systems like mural.ly & realtimeboard.com

    There are also specialised tools like https://www.retrium.com.

    Another thing I've done is pairing everybody — and making sure that each remote person is paired with somebody onsite.

    A good first step is to raise the issue as a retrospective topic — get everybody on the team involved in trying to solve it.

    0 points
  • Eric Chu, almost 6 years ago

    I recently ran a remote retro using Trello, was pretty successful.

    0 points