A Checklist for a Distributed Retrospective

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More and more agile teams have the problem, that they are not collocated. If you work in a distributed team, you know how difficult it is to stay in contact. It gets even worse, when you have a big time shift between the teams. But in such situations it is even more important to do a team wide retrospective. That’s why I created a checklist for retrospectives in distributed teams. I believe that most of the points also apply to other meetings, like e.g the Sprint Review in Scrum. To facilitate a successful distributed retrospective you need the following:



A Co-Facilitator
It is very difficult to facilitate two teams, if one of the teams is located 1000km away. It don’t has to be a experienced coach, just somebody who prepares everything off-site and helps facilitating the retrospective.

As I suggest to use an online tool for your retrospective, every team member should have access to a laptop. At least two team members should have one laptop to create their virtual post-its.

Every team needs a beamer, so that you can show what is happening on the wall.

Make sure that every laptop has network access. If you’re lucky a WLAN is in place, if not you need a switch and enough network cables.

Video conferencing
If available use a video conference system. In my experience it is very important, that everybody can see each other. A face speaks more than a thousand words.

Online Cardboard
As you won’t be able to use a physical cardboard, you need one online. There are several tools out there:

I use corkboard.me as it was updating the screens of the other participants very fast. It is also quite important, that you don’t need to create an account to use the tool. Thanks to Nils Wloka, Pawel Wrzeszcz, Barry O’Reilly, Angeline Tan and Katrin Elster for helping me to collect this list.

Prepare the Online Cardboard
As you would prepare a normal whiteboard or cork board, you also have to prepare your online cardboard. Make sure to search for a nice picture which presents the theme for the upcoming retrospective and that you put the agenda online.

More time for preparation
As you also have to care for the technical stuff and need some time to try if everything is working, the preparation time increases. That’s why it is important to plan for some additional preparation time.

Final thought

If you have all these things in place, there is no real difference to a normal retrospective. You can use nearly all retrospective tools, that are out there. And don’t forget the different phases of every successful retrospective.

Even though a retrospective with a distributed team can work out great, the team should meet in real on a regular basis. If possible the whole team should meet in real every second retrospective. I know that won’t be possible anytime, but it is worth trying. As Jutta Eckstein says: “You will pay for it anyway”. Either you pay for the flights or for less productivity.