How to Run an Effective Sprint Retro with Remote Team Members

If you’re a member of an Agile development team with remote team members, you may be wondering how to effectively run a retro for your sprints. At Vivid Seats, we have embraced a remote-friendly culture. Our primary office is in Chicago, but as we have grown our engineering team, we have been adding individuals and teams from outside our headquarters. We have several team members who work remotely part-time, some individuals who are full-time remote, and even a few teams that are fully-remote with no team members located in Chicago.

As we have grown into this remote-friendly culture, our engineering teams have had to adopt new tools to solve pain points that previously did not exist. One of these pain points was around running an end of sprint retrospective or retro, which is normally a highly-collaborative session. We have two-week sprints at Vivid Seats, and at the end of every sprint each team will host their own retrospective meeting to call out positive events during the sprint or offer suggestions for improvement. We have tried several tools to facilitate these meetings, and some have worked better than others.

Step one: effective audio and video communications for a retro

In the early days, we used audio-only calls for retros. However, as more and more team members attended from outside the office, this quickly became a pain point. We added video through Slack initially, but found it to be unreliable and limiting in features. With the help of our IT Department, we were able to align on Zoom as a solution. Its ease of use and reliability are second-to-none in the video calling world. With Zoom, we are able to share screens and have interactive two-way video between the members inside the office and those calling in from their laptops. Zoom’s participant grid view is great for everyone having visual communication.

A meeting on Zoom

Step two: finding a collaboration software to enable a better retro

We enable our teams to find solutions that work best for the team, so no two teams work exactly the same at Vivid Seats. However, a number of teams have iterated through online tools to facilitate their retro meetings. Some teams have used Google Docs for its great live collaboration, while others have found more specific tools such as FunRetro.

FunRetro

FunRetro is a virtual retro board, which replicates the effect of using sticky notes on a wall quite well. It allows for team members to up-vote on cards, or merge similar cards together. Additionally, they have several templates that conform to the many common ways of running a retro such as “What went well? What should we improve?” and others. Our teams have found this tool to be great at enabling a productive retro session.

Step three: encouraging remote members to participate as much as local members

Once you’ve got local and remote team members sharing video and collaborating in a tool that removes friction, it’s time to ensure your remote team members are participating as if they were in person. One key practice we have at Vivid Seats is to rotate the owner of the retro meeting. Each sprint, there is a new person who is responsible for the success of that sprint’s retro meeting. We simply follow an alphabetical list to pick the next owner. Even if the owner is remote, they are able to drive the meeting effectively using these tools.

Interested in learning more about Vivid Seats?

We’re sharing how we work together at Vivid Seats in hope it can help others achieve success. Additionally, we are actively hiring for several roles on our engineering team. If you’re interested to learn more about open positions, check out our careers page at vividseats.com/careers for more information.