The retrospective: is not about you, dear facilitator!

This is the fourth article in a mini-retrospectives series. In the previous ones I wrote about how retrospectives should be done at regular intervals, but also in other occasions and how the retrospective could be done in different groups than just the team and that sometimes changes happen even without an action item being clearly formulated.

This post analyses one of the most common mistakes of a retrospective facilitator: hijacking the retrospective.

I like to think of the retrospective as a piece of art and the facilitator (usually the ScrumMaster) has to learn to be the artist. This meeting is totally in the hands of the facilitator, so you can easily think that it is about the facilitator. It is not: providing a process for a retrospective is very much different from being the star of that meeting. Your role as a facilitator is to provide a structure and otherwise stay out of the way, letting the team to be on the stage.

Typical signs of a retrospective facilitator hijacking the retrospective are:

  • The facilitator speaks more than anybody else. Actually the facilitator should speak much less than the others and mostly just introducing the next activity
  • The facilitator talks with the group about the content of a certain topic. As facilitator you’re dealing with the structure of the retrospective and of what is being said, not with the content. However ScrumMasters are also team members, so there is a possible role conflict here: I will add some ideas how to deal with that in another post…
  • The team is answering to the facilitator, not to each other
  • They seem to depend on the facilitator’s permission to say something (he/she is their manager, right?)
  • The facilitator’s activities are slowing the team process down (for example because the visualisation work is so slow the team sits down while waiting)

In any case, be aware it is their show and not yours. Whatever happens there must be in their interest and if you are an obstacle for the process, well… get out of their way and let them work!

The next post will be again about retrospectives, with some more tips to facilitate them: stay tuned!