When We Meet But We Don’t


Hi All,
Still in the hot theme… WORK FROM HOME DUE TO COVID-19.

I heard a lot of “curhat” from my Scrum Master colleagues (in office, in community, etc).
They asked for suggestion or ideas on how to increase the engagement in online Sprint Retrospective.

How many times you feel exhausted after Sprint Review – Retro and Planning?
How many times you feel your social battery is low while you’re not actually meeting anyone?
How many times in Sprint Retrospective you feel like you talk alone and not sure whether people are listening or not?
How many times you feel unsure whether you and your team are in the same page during the online meeting?
>> raise your hand if you feel the same

As a Scrum Master, one of our challenge is engagement in Sprint Retrospective 😀
Well, in offline condition when we meet face to face, it happened sometime too.
Online retro makes it worse. IMHO.

In this article, I will share some of the ideas I tried to implement in our team retro.

Please note that I will share the ideas I implement in two different teams.
The first team is a scrum team, consist of 8 people. I am the Scrum Master of this team.
The second team is bigger. Here we call it a tribe. The tribe consists of +- 30 people. I am what they call Agile Coach of the tribe.

Let’s not go to discussion about Scrum Master – Agile Coach thing now.
I just want to share some story here 😀

We Want To See Face

Having an online meeting without seeing face is … well … not fun.
You cannot see the expression.
You don’t know whether your team is actually present or not there.
You don’t know whether someone is speaking but forget to unmute.

For me, I feel like loosing human touch.

I always encourage the team to turn on their video during the online meeting, especially in Sprint Retrospective.

This not always work.
Bad internet connection sometime blocked us from doing that.

So yes, I still encourage them to share their video, as long as they can do it.

Seeing a face during Work From Home is like the dry season longs for the rain 😀

Maintainable Retro Board

There are many website that offers Online Retro Board. I tried some of them but I found this one is my favorite.

It is called MIRO.

I know this tool in one of the meetup that Joshua Partogi held.

It’s fun, free and can be used for a long time.
We can arrange our board according to how we want it. Your imagination and creativity is the limit.
We can keep track of the previous retros and also the previous action items.
We can modify the board together.
We can see who is active on the board.
We can copy/paste and upload pictures.
We can have a voting button.

I am not promoting any tools here.
The point that I want to share is, have a board that you can share together and long lasting so that you can keep track on the progress of your team during this work from home season.

Have a placeholder where you and your team can see the progress so that you can improve together

Check In

I learned this from two people.

First, I learned this when I take the Agile Coaching training.
Basically the Scrum Master will ask everyone how is their condition.

Secondly, I learned from my Coach – Joshua Partogi during his online meetups.

He always do this routine:

  1. Ask us to open our chat box
  2. He throw a question like “What do you want to eat right now?” “Who do you miss the most now?” “Where do you want to go after this meetup?”
    He say the question and also put it in the chat box
  3. The participants will answer directly in chat box

It is fun to see the unexpected answers from the participants

Check-in routine will help everyone pay attention to other people and be present in the meeting. You will know who are actually listening and who are not.

Quiz – With Gift 😀

I tried this in the Tribe Retrospective as a warm up session (or some people call it ice breaker).
I utilize the QUIZIZZ tools.

This is quite simple.
The questions of the quiz are mixed between what related to sprint and other things.

I usually use the questions like:

  1. What is our sprint goal?
  2. When did we release X?
  3. What time do we run our Daily Scrum On Scrum?
  4. Who is responsible for the Sprint Backlog?
  5. Who are considered as the Development Team?
  6. Which one is not Scrum Values?
  7. etc

To bring the excitement into the quiz, I offered a treat 🙂
A cup of coffee delivered via Online Application (not to mention the 2 big brand in Indonesia :D) to their house for the first 3 winners.

This quiz somehow brought the engagement of the tribe.
Note that this tribe is 40 people and so difficult to have 30 people attention in a retrospective – at least for me

After the quiz, we continue with the retro discussion.

When you get people attention, it will be easier to have a fruitful discussion in retro


Okay…now that quiz had been used… I started to think of what else can I do to bring people engagement.
Then I came up with this… ONLINE PUZZLE from http://jigsawpuzzles.io.

Here’s how we did it:

  1. 3 puzzles were presented with the big picture how each puzzle will be like .
  2. Each puzzle can be done by 10 people.
  3. Everyone put their names on which puzzle they want to work on.
  4. They visit the puzzle link all together and they have 5 minutes to work on that puzzle
  5. We can see which team finishes first and we all cheer for that

The board looks like this:

This time.. no reward 😀
I told them I’m out of money hahahaha.

After the puzzle game, I asked them about what they learned from making a puzzle together.

They came up with: Collaboration and Teamwork.

Those were correct, but there are some other things that they missed. I dug them with more questions then they came up with these:

  1. When we want to make a puzzle, we saw the big picture. How the puzzle will look like.

    In our sprint, this is similar like a sprint goal

  2. When we want to make a puzzle, we started with the corner first.
    I asked “why?
    They said “because it’s clear, understandable, easy to do but most of all that is the thing that can be the baseline

    In our sprint, this is similar like which one we’re going to work on first, why a story needs to be clear and understandable, which one gives more value to our customer.

  3. When we want to make a puzzle, the number of people in a team is different. Some are more, some are less.
    When I asked which one they like, different answers popped up. Basically it depends.
    More people means more interaction and coordination, doesn’t mean that the work will be done faster. Could be faster but could be not. It depends.
    Team with less people might finish slower but less complicated in coordination.

    In our sprint this can reflect to people get sick, or people take leave, etc.

  4. When we want to make a puzzle, internet connection is important. Some people had slow internet connection so they cannot really contribute to the puzzle making.

    In our sprint, this can reflect to network issue, knowledge gap, personal issue, etc

I like this puzzle game.
Yes, it took more time in our retro, but the team learned a lot that day

Have a warm-up session that can be an eye opener to the team, especially related with the current sprint.

Express With Picture

Another thing we did in the retro was to express what we think about the sprint with drawing / picture / words.

I prepared a board for the 4 teams in the tribe and asked them to draw / copy and paster picture / write something in their team board.

They can put anything. After that we discuss about each picture to come up with what we can do to make the good become better.

I like to use good become better rather than bad become good since it brings more positive atmosphere.

The board look like this:

Picture speaks thousand words.


Ok now… I’m out of idea 😀
This afternoon will be the next retro for the tribe. I’m thinking of using mentimeter for the warm up.
Let’s see if it works well.

What I want to say here is, as a Scrum Master, you need to be more creative and out of the box.
You cant use the same method of retrospective every time.
Sometime even you don’t need to use any method at all.

This applies not only in Work From Home condition, when we work co-located, this should applied too.

But yes, the challenge is more in the current condition.
Sometime maybe you don’t even have to talk about work at all, just have human interaction, show empathy, show support, show that we’re in this together.

Communication is the most important thing in the retrospective. When communication tap is opened, fruitful discussion will happen and improvement can be achieved.

You are the one who know your team more.
Find out what will make them engaged.
Be out of the box.
Be creative.
Be emphatic.
Be human.

Be awesome 🙂

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