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Some of my team members wanted to email their feedback for sprint retrospective meetings instead of gathering in a room and write down their feedback in a sticky note. Other than telling them that emailing deprives the anonymity of the feedback, I couldn't give the reason I learnt a few years back in a scrum training. Hence my question: Why is sticky note the tool of choice in writing feedback in sprint retrospective meetings?

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    No one says you have to. The Scrum Guide is not prescriptive about how you run your Sprint Retrospectives. While there are reasons people might want to use stickies, it's a practice and not a framework requirement. – Todd A. Jacobs May 29 at 21:22
  • Sprint retrospectives are of course not restricted to scrum. :) – Vicki Laidler May 30 at 1:16
  • @VickiLaidler - yes they are. Sprint Retrospective is a Scrum term. You can absolutely conduct retrospective activities in any kind of framework or delivery mechanism but Sprint Retrospective is a defined term from Scrum. – Venture2099 May 30 at 9:39
  • I use the term "Agile Retrospective", which is not restricted to any specific method. – BenLinders May 30 at 16:32
  • @Venture2099, it is certainly a defined term IN scrum, but since "sprint" and "retrospective" are both general terms used in other agile methodologies, I'd argue that "sprint retrospective" is likewise a general term, as well as a scrum-specific term. – Vicki Laidler May 30 at 23:54
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I frequently do not use sticky notes. I use whiteboards and electronic tools quite often. The retrospective is about the team members discussing how they worked in the sprint and identifying actions to take on together as a team to improve.

Email as a mode of communication is particularly poor for this sort of conversation because it is slow, lacks visual communication, and generally doesn't support the quick back and forth of a verbal conversation.

If I read further into your question, it sounds like the team isn't getting value out of the retro. There can be a lot of reasons for this. They could feel like it is old, they could not understand why they do it, they could feel disempowered from making a change.

One option: you could do a retro about the retro. You could share the purpose of the meeting, maybe grab some excerpts from the scrum guide, books, or blogs, etc. Then ask them to identify things they'd like to try to make the retro a valuable use of their time and achieve those objectives.

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Welcome yasouser!

I can think of a couple of reasons:

  • sticky notes are small. you can't write very much on them. This is a feature not a bug: per the principle that face to face conversation is the most effective means of conversation, the sticky note is just a placeholder for the person who wrote it to talk about it and start the conversation

  • sticky notes in retros are frequently dot-voted to decide what to discuss further, or categorized or prioritized - with one item on each sticky, you have lots of flexibility

  • if we're all writing sticky notes during the retro, then we all get the same amount of time to give our feedback, and it doesn't matter if someone has better writing skills than someone else

  • you can do more things with sticky notes than just talk about them and dot vote them. there are a number of retro approaches that involve creative placement of the stickies: in different places on a picture that signify different areas (helps, hindrances, learned, appreciations, etc); or different places on a timeline that represents the sprint; and more I'm sure. Creative approaches help make retros more relaxed and playful, which helps with any difficult conversations that might ensue, and also put the team's brains into more creative spaces for problem solving.

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If people want to prepare themselves before the retrospective is held, organize their thoughts, and think about the things that they want to bring up, that can be helpful for them and improve the quality of the input. If they want to share that with the retrospective facilitator, I appreciate that, as it gives me some idea on what to expect and better prepare myself. I don't act on it, just take notice.

However, I ask them to still write sticky notes or mention the things from their email in the meeting. The facilitator is not a secretary, and I want to see them actively participate in the retrospective. You may need to inform them about this to set expectations right.

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