Chow #149 – Un-impactful retrospectives and long list of action items

Sagar is a Scrum Master (SM) of Pacifica Scrum Team since Sprint 19 and they are currently into Sprint 26. Sagar shares that their retrospectives are not impactful. They do get good inputs and discuss, but they end the meeting with an overwhelming sense of not being able to address all issues.

Not all team members are providing inputs. Team has agreed to update their retro points on a wiki page and it is evident that not all are doing so. There is concern about this, but at the same time apprehension that if all do provide inputs, they will anyway not be able to address the additional points that come up.

He shares that there are about 27 action items from past retrospectives, that are open or ongoing. It takes some time to go thru them and update. Some action items are no longer relevant and stay put. With all this, their hour-long retrospective meeting is not yielding desired outcome. He wants to know if Scrum allows one to increase the duration of the retrospective.

He seeks your input (you are an Agile Coach) on increasing the duration as well as addressing other concerns.

Have you faced a situation like above or along the same lines? Do you have any inputs/suggestions for Sagar?


Let’s start with all team members not providing inputs, here are a few things that Sagar could do:

  • Reach out 1-on-1 to team members and understand why they are / they are not providing inputs, this should be done in staggered manner, reaching out to only a few members per sprint
  • See of any other technique can be used to solicit inputs instead of wiki, as wiki may not provide anonymity. Ideally the team member should not be afraid to state their views openly, but it may not be so at all times. There are many web based collaboration tools.
  • One possible reason could be a long list of pendings items making the exercise seem futile, that leads us to the next point.

The retrospective action items and inputs needs to be treated like a backlog, many teams miss this. By Backlog I mean, it needs to to be prioritized, based on value/outcome expected and pruned by removing items that no longer makes sense:

  • Prioritize the inputs that are received and discuss and resolve what the team feels is top priority ones in a time boxed manner.
  • Review the pending retrospective items, they need to move to one of these buckets:
    • If they are ongoing in nature – move to Team Norms/ Working Agreement, DoR, DoD as appropriate
    • If they are no longer relevant – drop them from the active list. You may maintain an archive for records and to check if they recur
    • Do move out the closed items, you may archive them
    • Prioritize the rest and focus on the important ones.

Steps similar to above were tried out in a few teams that I worked with and had good outcomes. Also as a coach work with the Scum Master and the team to arrive at the above, over sharing or suggesting them right away.

What do you think?

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