The ten questions sheet for retrospectives

Retrospectives are great to improve collaboration in teams. To add to the many options available, here are ten or so questions you can use for you team retro. The questions follow up key success factors and have the potential to reveal blind spots of a team.

The following sheet can be a good starting point for a team’s retrospective:

The sheet provides a grid to rate 11 items in five steps from rainy to bright sunshine. The items are: "I enjoy working in this team", "Our users and customers love what we create", "the product will make an impact on the market", "we have an effective feedback loop with users, business and partners", "We quickly come to good decisions", "We invest into identifying simple and stable solutions", "We reduce our scope to the essentials needed", "We collaborate across disciplines and complete tasks together", "We get creative to make teamwork easier and to remove waste", "We have sufficient people, time and money to achieve the goals", "Our investments in the product will pay off".
Make team member place sticky points – intense discussions can follow right afterwards.

When you assign e.g. -2,-1, 0, 1, 2 to each of the boxes, you can easily sum it up. Color those fields where a team thinks improvement is needed the most.

The same sheet as above, now with sticky points all over it and summed up totals column where one sees those topics that need the most work.
Summing up reveals what team members assume to be strengths or weaknesses of their team

The team’s responses might look a bit inconsistent. On the one hand, the members agree that they would make good decisions quickly and on the other hand, they do not think that customers and users would love their solution. Such inconsistencies are to be expected and can be worth a discussion within a team.

A team might also have completely different opinions – see e.g. the responses towards “our user and customers love what we create” – a discussion might be worthwhile. In this case, nobody from the team interacted with customers or users and they had no clue whether customers will love the solution or not.

This by the way is the goal of such questions: Make team members think about blind spots. The questions take up some key success factors: Market positioning, user needs, decision making, feedback loops, reduction, simplicity, team spirit etc.

After summing up, the team decided to discuss two topics and come up with improvements, here is a how this can look like:

The worksheet to work on one topic with three section: Topics, Causes and improvement ideas.
After the discussion in a smaller group, the whole team decided which improvements to do.

For a good discussion enough expertise is needed. In this case, the team actually had the needed expertise. However the one person with the expertise was overloaded and had no time to talk to users and customers. Also the product owner was happy to just define stuff and get it done. The team decided that they would finally do a round of tests with users. They also decided to collect some quantitative data with a standard UX questionnaire. They finally decided that they would do it as a team and not delegate it to the already overloaded person. Thus they added respective items to their team backlog to refine and plan later.

You could repeat such a retrospective meeting regularly and observe how the measures taken will change the team member’s perspective of their effectiveness.

A graph showing how items were rated over time.
Assessing a team’s effectiveness in regular intervals will give you a trend graph.

A team will hopefully start to collect at least some objective data, e.g. doing bench-marking with a standardized UX questionnaire, looking at ratings in App stores, observe sales numbers and more. Such data will of course influence the team’s perspective and I would expect a more consistent and less diverse assessment as a result.

Hope it helps in your team as well.