On reshaping the Sprint Retrospective Process

Ticket to log time

Per the discussion in the Scaling Proposal, reinstating sprint retrospectives, and making them synchronous, was identified as a quick win.

I’ve opened an MR with proposed changes, but it was noted that while there was some discussion around the sprint retrospectives in the scaling thread, it may not have reached everyone. So, I’m writing this post for an overview of the proposed changes and to get feedback.

The basics of the proposal are these:

  1. Sprint Retrospectives would be reinstated.
  2. They would be synchronous
  3. They would replace social chats (the social chats original intended purpose was to make sure we at least had the opportunity to get some face time. With the retrospective, face time is mostly assured)
  4. They would rotate hours in some way
  5. You would be expected to attend them if they were happening during the hours you normally work.

There are some questions this raises, of course, the most obvious being:

  • Should we keep the social chats? They have been rather nice and while the original stated purpose may no longer apply, it’s good to talk outside of work topics.
  • Should we start this with one cell? Maybe Falcon, which I believe has already kind of started them? How did that go, @jill ?
  • I put a proposed structure on the retrospectives to make sure they stay on track but I’m not married to it. Are there any other ideas on how these retrospectives should be structured so they can focus on making changes and avoid talking in circles too much?

Anyhow, I’d love to know your thoughts.


I haven’t been in a lot of social chats but what’s the motivation for removing these?

It will be quite challenging for the Falcon team since we are widespread across the globe. We have never been able to meet all together. :expressionless:

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I think the idea is to transfer the Social Chats budget to Sprint Retros. If people want to keep social chats but not be paid for it, that would be absolutely fine.

I feel that a Retrospective can be an extension of social chat but not a replacement, for the reason that sometimes I would like to participate in the social chat of different cells just to meet people in a different cell.


Definitely-- hence the addition of rotating time windows and also not requiring team members to join if it’s out of their normal work hours. The expectation is not that the whole team will always be available, but that enough team members are available to continue making meaningful improvements as we go along.

The trick here is that the social chats are currently scheduled and themed by a firefighter. This takes time and someone has to run the event, so if there were no pre-allocated budget these would likely die out. Unless someone just volunteered to run them, which is an option, but not something we could expect.


Personally, I enjoy social chats a lot. More often than not, if I’m having a difficult sprint (or had a difficult last sprint), I get a boost of morale/energy after a social chat. One could argue that they have positive impact on team members and their productivity, though I can only speak for myself.

However the social chats suffer from the timezone issue.

I would still attend social chats, even if they weren’t billable. But the fact that they’re billable indicates that OpenCraft recognizes the importance of people having time and space to talk about non-work related stuff, and get to know each other better, which is only natural when working together. Right now we even schedule tickets (I don’t think they block time on sprintcraft but whatever), which means that we kind of take it seriously and incorporate it into the workflow. So making them non-billable probably going to mean that they are going to die out. It would be like a “Gaming Zone” in any other company that has one in the office - it’s there and they show it to you when you get employed, but no one really uses it, because you would be shamed for spending time using it instead of doing the work.

I would like to see that happen. I would even consider doing it myself, but afraid of the social awkwardness, when you ask in the chat if anyone wants to have a social chat this week/sprint, and no one responds. But it could also have benefits - we can be more flexible with social chats, i.e. have more than one per sprint/week, more flexible with timezone and duration, since it’s no longer tied to a budget/work.

On the other hand, I think we do (desperately?) need retrospectives, which would ensure or help to fix the pain points, because more often than not, people who are struggling don’t have time to reflect and suggest/make a change. There are countless examples of it. So even if it means that we have to remove social chats, I think we should give retrospectives a try, and may be it works out for the best.


I agree with @maxim and @farhaan. I find social chat really refreshing and a nice way to meet/interact with people in other cells. And if they weren’t billable I’m pretty sure I’ll end up prioritising some other task over it. So I would vote for keeping it but maybe extend it to retrospective.

I can’t help but feel moving retrospective to completely synchronous, would bring back the some of the problems we were trying to solve by moving to asynchronous model. I understand that rotating time windows would help here, but if the majority of the team prefers one window we’ll inevitably end up scheduling the calls in that and the ones who can’t make it would be missing out.

How about making it semi-synchronous? We keep the steps of writing the points and voting still asynchronous and only move the discussion (and deciding on action items) to synchronous. That was the gap in the asynchronous model anyway i.e. we were writing down points and voting, but we weren’t able to get around to finalising the discussions and define necessary action items. This way, the ones who don’t make it to the call can still see the updates on the spreadsheet.


I was assuming that we don’t have budget for having both sprint retros and social chat, but I might be wrong. Who decides? I’m glad to see that people actually enjoy and want to keep social chats.

It’s cell budgets, so ultimately each cell chooses. But since the budget for social chats has been planned for everyone to participate, but that only a portion of each cell is able to attend, that leaves a part of that budget unused? Maybe each sprint there could be both a social chat and a retro scheduled, on opposite times (if the retro is at 10am UTC, the social chat at 10pm UTC?), this way half of the cell joins one, and the other half the other? And if the time rotates every sprint, everyone should be able to alternate which one is attended each sprint?

+1 – it is useful to run things this way in any case, to focus the synchronous time on what benefits from it the most, ie the actual discussions on elements we reviewed calmly async before.

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I’m not a fan of bringing back mandatory synchronous calls. The weekly calls were causing a lot of issues for the team, and we solved that (quite well IMO) with a move to completely async sprint planning.

I’m curious why we assume that async retrospectives don’t work, but sync meetings would?
It’s true that when we had synchronous meetings, we would more often schedule follow-up actions for retrospective items, but I think that’s mostly because we didn’t end the meeting until someone “volunteered” to take an action item that nobody was particularly interested in.

We could in theory do the same thing asynchronously, but I don’t think that assigning action items to people who are not particularly bothered or interested in a specific issue is the best way to do it.

I understand that talking things over face to face is valuable, but I don’t think it should be mandatory, even if it’s only during work hours.

I think that’s a good idea - that way you know what the items discussed will be in advance, and can decide to join (or not) the meeting based on how much you are affected and/or interested in the issues.


Yes! It’s nice to meet people and play games/talk about random things :stuck_out_tongue:
The morale boost that comes with that is great. :slight_smile:

Didn’t work last time, but we’re trying again this sprint.

I prefer if we don’t have a strict structure - writing what was discussed for follow-up is enough.
I think the most important part is letting people discuss issues/get advice/suggest process changes. Once that is done, the results of the discussion should be forwarded to the Developer Advocate/pursuer (better if he’s on the call) since he has dedicated time allocated to look for solutions.

Not all discussions should yield a process change though: sometimes we just need to vent or get advice on how to handle a bad client or budget issues.

OK! I’ve pushed an update to my MR with several notes incorporated. In particular, the proposal:

  • Implies automation for creation of the social chat and the sprint retrospective (this will need to actually be built, but we can schedule tasks for this once we verify it’s what we want)
  • Reduces the amount of structure in the meeting while still giving guidance on what the meeting should cover
  • Provides more flexibility on who should lead the meeting
  • Puts the social chat back in.
  • Extends similar flexibility to the social chat being lead.

I’d encourage everyone to look over the actual wording of my proposal and comment on the MR directly so I can address any further notes there.

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@team As of today, the changes to the sprint retrospective process have been merged. You can read the revised process here!

Recurring calendar events have been set up to make it easier to coordinate these retrospectives, and some automation has been added by @navin to make managing the recordings easier. :)


Thanks for posting this @Fox - it made me realise that I had completely forgotten about the Bi-weekly checkup form! I’ll remember to complete it from now on.

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