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The Mesomorphic guide to holding your own retrospective

Mesomorphic have produced a series of guides on home working, we’re reproduced in full here with permission, but urge you to visit their site for the most up to date information

Part of the Remote Working series:

Part 1: The Mesomorphic Guide to Working From Home
Part 2: Communication When Working Remotely
Part 3: You Can With a Kanban
Part 4: Looking Back Over Our First Week of Having a Fully Remote Team
Part 5: The Mesomorphic Guide to Holding Your Own Retrospective

As promised, here is a blog post which covers the ins and outs of how we hold a retrospective at Mesomorphic.

If you haven’t read the blog post we published on Friday, then I suggest reading through that first so you can get a solid understanding of what the outcomes are for this process. As you now know, the outcome of a retrospective is to get a list of action points to be executed before the next retrospective. These action points help processes to be continuously improved, and by delegating action points to team members, it provides accountability within the team. Generally, the categories we use for retrospectives are:

  • What we enjoyed
  • What we didn’t enjoy
  • What puzzled us
  • What we would like more of
  • What we would like less of
  • What we would like the same of

For our retrospective on Friday however, we decided to reduce the number of categories and throw in a new one of “What do we want to try next”. That’s the beauty of retrospectives. You tailor the categories to suit your business/industry. The process is broadly the same, and you can get creative with your categories! Just don’t forget that the purpose of the exercise is to capture your wins as well as areas that need to be improved upon, so it’s important to include a “What went well” and “What didn’t go well” or a variety thereof. Once you have agreed on your categories, then you are ready to hold your first retrospective. If you’re all in the same space, post-it notes are great for capturing your thoughts. If you’re remote, it would be better to find an online tool which can be accessed by all your team. Before you start, you need to block off an appropriate amount of time to have your retrospective. This should be no longer than an hour.

Step 1 – Setting the Scene

Once you have the whole team together, start the session by reading out the prime directive

Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand. — Norm Kerth

The prime directive makes sure that everyone is on the same page, and agrees that there is to be no finger pointing or blame culture. You all did the best you could at the time, so now is the time to revisit and review.

Step 2 – Gathering Data

Each team member is to capture their individual thoughts and place under each category header. Remember, if you’re a team of one, you can still follow this process!

Step 3 – Generating Insight

Each team member reads their ticket to the rest of the team, in case it needs clarification. This is a time for the rest of the team to be listening rather than speaking.

Step 4 – Mute Mapping

For 5 minutes, each individual group the tickets made in step 2 by theme. You’re not allowed to speak during this process, you’re simply to group tickets together. You generally have 5 minutes to carry out this task.

Step 4 – Identifying Groups

Once groups have been formed, the team decides together what the groups represent and gives them a suitable title.

Step 5 – Voting

Each team member votes on the groups they feel are most important. There are a number of different voting strategies available, but we’d recommend allowing one vote per group on as many groups as desired, to determine the most important group to the team.

Step 6 – Making Action Points

Using the group that has been determined as the most important to the team, create action points and delegate as necessary. Creating action points from a single group allows the team to focus on a single objective to improve on before the next retrospective. This makes it more manageable and is easier to look back over at the next retrospective to determine if the team was successful or not. The other groups won’t be ignored, they will simply become the most important group in future retrospectives.

You will begin to see the value of retrospectives after your first run through. If you want to speak to us about this in more detail, please get in touch at

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