Our team is distributed across two cities in EST and one city in PST. We heavily use Hangouts, Google Docs and other collaboration tools.

Most advice and techniques for conducting retrospectives are geared towards teams that are physically in the same room (I.e. Putting sticky notes up on a board).

What are some techniques for conducting retrospectives for teams that cannot all be in the same room?

5 Answers 5


We recently had two retrospectives where parties joined from two continents. It wasn't that different than having the whole team in one room.

The key is where you store the information. It is common that teams write a shared documentation during the retrospective and that kills the dynamics of the event. Select one site and do the writing and drawing part there. The cameras we have now can nicely transfer what is going on, and both parties can see the whiteboards or whatever you have. Of course, the others won't be able to write or draw, but they can explain what they want. If you use a laptop camera that is even better, because you can walk that around the room in case you have multiple whiteboards.

Create photos and distribute them after the meeting, or write a memo afterwards (not during the event). Some other small things that can improve the experience:

  • No phones and no laptops besides the camera; based on my experience people use electronic devices more heavily during a video conference and that is not good for the dynamics of the meeting.
  • Detailed agenda in advance, what people should prepare, etc; conference calls still start with setting up the equipment, waiting for others, and therefore the meetings are actually shorter. The data gathering part is the longest part, but can be done alone. Do it before the session.
  • You can work in groups as well (we did). Have one dedicated person who connects the other sides by explaining them what is on the board and what is happening right now, and who will write or draw what the others would like to share.

As Zsolt mentioned, also our team experience showed that is better to actually write the information only on one site.

We backed that up with the use of specific collaboration tools like Trello boards or Ideaboardz that allow voting of specific cards and then shared the results as a PDF in a wiki for reference.


At the retrospective facilitators gathering earlier this year we discussed possible exercises for remote or distributed retrospectives. We conclude that, with the help with some basic collaboration tools, almost all retrospective exercises can be used.

I described one specific exercise in doing remote retrospectives. This exercise uses a Google doc with questions to collect team input. The retrospective itself can be done using a video connection with Skype or Hangouts.

Some sample questions for such a remote retrospective are:

  1. What do you like about our team and the way that we work together?
  2. What can we do to improve collaboration, communication and co-working in the team?
  3. How do you feel about the tools that we are using? Do the tools support collaboration sufficiently?
  4. What have you learned working in this dispersed team?
  5. If there is one thing that you could change, what would it be?

There's a retrospective toolbox which provides exercises, using the selection button "remote" you can filter out the ones that can be done with distributed teams. See retrospective exercises.

Does this help you?

Ben Linders Co author Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives

  • Hi Ben, although your posts might be valid, if the links are broken, your answer becomes useless - would you mind expanding the actual PMSE answer to avoid the need to enter into the blog to get the overall idea of your suggestions?
    – Tiago Cardoso
    Commented Feb 20, 2018 at 20:04
  • Thanks Tiago for your feedback. I extended my answers so that people don't need to go to the blog post. Does this help?
    – BenLinders
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 23:43

In my experience, since retros are happening at the end of the sprint and it's crucial that everyone taking part feels comfortable (it's a long topic connected to workers feeling) it's often good to start having an "energizer" or "icebreaker" so people can feel connected and relaxed.

I want to elaborate on the "where" stated by Zsolt talking about each element of the retro:

  • Should they go into a task in your project management tool?
  • Is it necessary to change a process document? (e.g. GitHub workflows, onboarding process, etc.)
  • Who's is responsible to make sure that the issue gets addressed?

I think it takes specialized software to run an effective remote retrospective. We found Google Docs, Trello, or real-time canvases to be too clunky.

Our company is fully-distributed, with no central office. We became so frustrated running our retrospective meetings using a hodge-podge of tools we decided to build our own. We think a good online retrospective:

  1. Guides the team through the process
  2. Keeps reflections anonymous until its grouped into themes
  3. Allows for the entire remote team to participate in grouping
  4. Let's the team vote on what to spend its time discussing
  5. Captures the actions/process updates into a clear plan of action

Check it out: it's called Parabol, and it's free: https://parabol.co

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.