Asking key questions in the retrospective meeting can increase team engagement.

Updated: Dec 6, 2019

By Ernesto Custodio


Asking key questions in the retrospective meeting can increase team engagement.

According to a study conducted by the Center for Talent Innovation, individuals are 3.5 times more likely to contribute to their full potential when asked “How are you doing?”. As simple and rewarding as this question may be, the reality is that more than 40% of employees feel isolated or excluded at work.

The good news is that “belonging” can be improved. The study found that 39% of employees feel a greater sense of belonging when their coworkers check in with them at the personal and professional level.

So how can organizations help individuals to check in with one another in a genuine way? The answer may lay in the Sprint Retrospective. Scrum teams can increase their level of team engagement by running a retrospective that makes team members feel valued and connected.

The Sprint Retrospective is one of the five Scrum events. It is a timeboxed meeting that should last no more than 1.5 hours for a two-week Sprint. This is a closed-door event attended by the team to allow the Scrum team to be transparent about the challenges. The meeting explores findings relating to people and processes. During the session, the team reflects on how they did in the last Sprint with regards to people, relationships, process, and tools. They also create a plan for how to improve work in the next Sprint.

Typical questions to guide the Sprint Retrospective include:

  • What went well during the Sprint?

  • What didn’t go well during the Sprint?

  • What could we do differently to improve?

  • What actions can we take to improve?

  • Was it comfortable to obey the timeboxes?

  • How well did we self-assign work?

  • Was the Daily Scrum format followed?

  • How effective was our self-organizing; did the ScrumMaster (or someone else) need to drive us?

This is also a perfect opportunity to ask how individuals are doing and perhaps even measure the Belonging Barometer. Consider including questions that cover professional and emotional aspects that allow the team to connect with one another. It is important to create a safe place for team members to share. This includes checking biases at the door and creating a positive environment that always seeks to find common ground.

Energize the room with icebreakers and inject positivity by allowing genuine conversations to take place. It is also important to facilitate the session in order to help team members remember recent events that might be of importance, or even to help them find the words in order to be more expressive and transparent. Retrospectives that use the three Ls can help team members develop a sense of belonging by making the discussion more personable.

To conduct a Three Ls retrospective, have attendees individually write notes on post-its for each of the L areas.

  • Liked – things you really liked during this past Sprint

  • Learned – things you learned in this past Sprint

  • Lacked – things you didn’t have and missed during this past Sprint

Ensure that everyone has an opportunity to present their Ls. Discuss the findings for each category as a team. Continue to reinforce the "likes" during the next Sprint. Use the "learned" to create more transparency and opportunity to improve. Focus on turning the "lacked" into "likes" by selecting at least one and improving it during the next Sprint.

The modern organization is more than a place for individuals to work. It’s also a place for individuals to feel safe, fulfilled, rewarded, valued, and accepted. By leveraging the Sprint Retrospective to check in professionally and emotionally, an Agile organization can increase the sense of belonging and encourage team members to contribute to their full potential.



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