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I'm currently helping out a team in the role of Scrum Master. Everything is running smoothly. The last couple of retros we had very little to talk about, and if there were issues we mostly agreed upon them immediately, took action, and resolved them.

Now I'm wondering if there are any good ideas for a retro when everything is going well. We're mostly on track with what we are committing to, communication is great, stories are well-defined, and everybody seems happy. On the other hand, I wonder if there are things I might be able to tickle out of the team when using different approaches.

  • Scrum tends to be focused on short term goals and ignores long term goals. Are you sure long term goals are being attended to?? If everything is perfect, be sure to congratulate! – Chris Sep 14 '16 at 12:31
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Retrospectives: For Continuous Improvement

The misunderstanding of the retrospective as a place to fix problems is very common. However, the goal of the retrospective isn't just to discuss problems; the goal should be continuous improvement of the team's processes.

When things are going well, the team should be asking themselves "What did we do well this Sprint?" so that they can do more of it. You don't need clever games or techniques to elicit this information. Once you've eliminated the obvious problems, simply asking the team what went well is usually enough to offer opportunities for process improvement.

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There are always things you can learn from, the Retro gives you an opportunity to keep refining your processes and strategies - identify any areas where you can shave time off, increase the quality of your increments of done work, maybe a different QA approach, a different Dev approach. Maybe you want to talk about how things would have gone if you brought in more things from a backlog.

The caveat to that it, which I am sure you know, is not doing any drastic changes, don't swap out responsibilities, or do anything to otherwise change the team dynamic as that will cause a disruption in performance. I'd also caution against putting too much pressure to pick up intensity or speed.

You can also use the Retro to look back on lessons learned from other Retro, Planning and other internal reviews/meetings you have called during the Sprint, or other iterations to see how you took those lessons to heart and improved. Metrics can be pretty boring or feel like a waste to some, but nothing is cooler than showing a Scrum/Agile team 3 months worth of charts and other metrics that show improvement coming from adhering to lessons learned and processes.

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When things are going well and the team is doing good, you can look for ways to use the strengths that team members poses to become great.

There are several retrospective exercises that I use to discover strengths and use that to further improve, address problems, increase performance, or make things go smoothly. Some of them are:

  • Perfection Game where people state what they like and how they could improve that
  • Core Qualities to discover the positive qualities, strengths that people have.
  • Strength-based Questions to explore existing skills and experience to become great in doing things that teams are already good at.
  • Solution-focused approach, focus on the present and future and examine “what works” in a given situation, and use that to address existing problems

All these exercises help you to learn from things that go well. The knowledge gained can be used to solve ongoing or upcoming impediments or to be better prepared when they pop up.

BTW: It could also be that your team is suffering from retrospectives fatigue where just using a new and different exercise in the retrospective would bring out useful actions. Also in such a situation, doing one from the above exercises would be valuable.

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