Retrospectives are a great opportunity to find ways to improve your processes. However for it to be really successful you need to have an environment where people can be completely open and express their opinions freely. One way to do this is by having a Closed Retrospective.

A Closed Retrospective is basically the same as any old retrospective. The difference being that people prepare their discussion points before hand and present them on the discussion board all at the same time - with no talking. Some teams probably already do this as part of their Retrospectives and there is no need to distinguish the difference. However if you're not, then read on.

If people are allowed to talk during the pre-discussion period, or are placing their points on the boards as they think of them, I have noticed that following often happens:

  • People will question the discussion point before the retrospective
  • It influences the discussions points that are provided afterwards
  • People may take offense to a particular point and place up a revenge discussion point
  • People will shoot down a discussion point they don't agree with and it will be removed from the board

The problem with the above points is that it creates an environment where people are more reluctant to share their thoughts and express their opinions. Not being able to do these things greatly dampens the benefits that can be had from a Closed Retrospective.

In an ideal world, these precautions shouldn't have to be taken and people should have the discipline to not to do the above. However, until that ideal world comes around, try out a Closed Retrospective.

This article was first noted down on the 12th of July, 2012.