At an open space event the other day a group of people were pondering the topic “Getting people to be engaged during meetings.” Inevitably the conversation turned to retrospectives. People described how some teams complained about being forced to have retrospectives and how others went without complaint but didn’t really participate. Some of the frustrations were that introverts never want to participate and have fun conversations with their teammates.
In short, some scrum masters were describing ways that they have been trying to pull their teams into a place of participating but weren’t being successful. Teams were feeling forced to do something they didn’t want to do and scrum masters were frustrated because no one wanted to play this very important game with them.
As I stepped back from the conversation I began to realize that what was missing was the understanding that there is an art to being able to facilitate an effective retrospective that starts long before the meeting. The scrum masters role in the retrospectives isn’t simply to facilitate while people to talk about what went well, what didn’t go well, and what will we do to improve in the next sprint. It is about creating new awareness. It isn’t about pulling people into the conversation. It’s about creating space for them to learn and grow and innovate in order to become higher performing.