Short for retrospective, a “retro” is an opportunity to reflect on the recent past and optimise for the future. Commonly used by Fortune 500 companies and Silicon Valley tech startups, retrospectives are a powerful way to optimise a remote team’s effectiveness.
Without the casual water cooler chats or gripe sessions that happen organically in an office environment, issues affecting a team’s performance and morale might go unnoticed until it’s too late. The best way to prevent that kind of pain is by making an effort to uncover problem areas while they’re still easy to address.
It’s important to note that a retro should be a constructive session and a positive learning experience. To avoid retros becoming blaming sessions or monotonous, this retro meeting formula can help your team express their views with more safety and engagement. Promoting psychological safety in your remote team will help to ensure people feel comfortable to share their honest thoughts and opinions; leading to a higher functioning and more effective team.
What is the goal of this meeting?
Evaluate the past working cycle – with the entire team – with the aim of generating insights to help optimise how the team works together.
What tools will I need for this meeting?
Web conferencing tool and a collaboration platform that supports stickies.
How much time should I set aside?
You will need about 1–1.5 hours to complete this session. Note that the length of your retro meetings will be determined by the number of team members and how new the team is.
When should I host a retro?
Retros are a great way for a project lead to assess the effectiveness of their teams. Retros can happen at the end of a work sprint, the end of a product iteration or at regular intervals throughout a project. If your team is losing momentum and not meeting deadlines, if sub-tasks did not go as planned, or if there is misalignment between project leads, a retro can help get you back on track.
It’s a good idea to prepare your retro document ahead of time and then share the document link in the meeting agenda. For this example, we have used Google Slides as our collaboration tool.
SET THE SCENE | 5 minutes
As the meeting facilitator, remind participants of the meeting purpose and then explain the process of filling in the GLAD, SAD, MAD, KUDOS stickies. Explain that participants can copy and paste their sticky notes into the relevant sections or slides.
Some people are very outspoken, while others are quiet and observe more. Keep mental notes as to who hasn’t contributed much and make a point to draw them into the conversation to the extent they’re comfortable.
GLAD | 5 minutes (silence)
You could start with any of the Glad, Sad or Mad slides but in our experience, it can be helpful to start off with some positive thoughts about the project. Allow participants 5 minutes of silence to reflect back on the project and type a word/phrase or sentence to describe something positive or something that made them glad.
DISCUSS GLAD | 10 minutes
Once your team has filled in a satisfactory number of GLAD stickies in the allotted time, it’s important to discuss and unpack what the team has put down. If anything written down is unclear, this gives your teammates a chance to elaborate and clarify on what they have to say.
SAD + MAD | 10 minutes (silence)
Now your team has an idea of what to do, it can save some time to do both SAD and MAD sections at once. Allow your team 10 minutes of silence to reflect back and fill in their frustrations and project pain points.
DISCUSS SAD + MAD | 10 minutes
At this point, it would be a good idea to ask them if they notice any pattern emerging from the stickies. Often, a pain-point experienced by one team member is also experienced by another; so it is likely that your teammate’s stickies will be repetitive. These patterns or repetitions can help you identify next-actions or ways to optimise your process. Starting with SAD, identify as a team where the patterns are and then get one or two team members to sort the stickies into groups.
KUDOS | 5 minutes (silence)
To ensure the session doesn’t end on a sour note, it’s important to give time for kudos. This is where your team will call out a champion team member and celebrate a particular effort on the project.
DISCUSS KUDOS | 5 minutes
Allow your teammates 5 minutes to share their celebrations and props with each other and to elaborate on the ways this contributed positively to their project experience. A little peer-to-peer recognition is a great way to end your retro on a positive note.
ACTIONS | 15 minutes
This is an opportunity for the team to discuss solutions and to make necessary adjustments to project processes and your Culture Canvas (an essential tool for remote teams). As the team solves a challenge or agrees on a way forward, this is recorded as an action. These actions should ensure elimination of the frustration and pain-points experienced in the project so far.
CLOSING | 5 minutes
Spend the final 5 minutes of the meeting ensuring that everyone has had their say, that everyone is aligned with the next steps, and that any changes to processes or ways of working have been clearly communicated. Ask if anyone has final questions or comments. And finally, acknowledge your team’s participation and express gratitude for special contributions.
The current world of work is an environment of perpetual disruption with a high pace of change in all aspects of business, from technology to consumer behaviour. This means it is ever more important for employers to rethink their hiring process to successfully identify and attract talent that is highly adaptable and open to learning new skills.
Team leaders now have the challenging task, during interviews, of asking the right questions to reveal which candidates are best suited to fast-paced and agile work environments.
Candidate Selection Criteria
We have found that there are certain traits or characteristics which are common across high-performing agile workers. Seeking these characteristics out in your new team hires may help to ensure that you’re securing the best possible candidate. It’s useful to create an interview form containing your questions which could be filled in by those in the hiring process and used as a template for interviews going forward. For this example, we have used Google Forms.
When you’re looking for talent, keep the following criteria in mind:
1. A WILLINGNESS TO LEARN:
Workers who want to do things the way they have always been done will often find remote work challenging, especially with emerging technologies. That’s why a desire and willingness to learn is a prized remote working soft skill. Whether the candidate will need to learn a new customer relationship management (CRM) system, adopt a set of new company policies, or tackle another new task, their willingness to learn is a highly valued commodity.
What To Ask:
- Tell me about a risk you took and failed. What did you learn?
- What can you do today that you couldn’t do 6 months ago?
- When last did you take a course?
- Describe a situation where you were asked to do something you’ve never done before.
What To Look For:
A candidate who has volunteered for stretch-tasks in their roles or who have decidedly taken on a task outside of their comfort zone in order to grow. A willingness to embrace new technologies as well as a candidate who has sought out mentorship are also good examples.
2. A WILLINGNESS TO WORK IN A TEAM:
Having the skill set to collaborate with team members on projects is vital for any team, but especially remote ones. Whether you’re creating a new campaign or launching a new product, how a candidate works with others gives you an idea of what it’s like to have them as an employee and co-worker. Because the candidate will only have the internet to communicate with their peers and complete work tasks, they must possess the skills to work with others efficiently. If they struggle with this, remote work may not be for them.
What To Ask:
- Have you ever worked on several small teams at once?
- Have you ever disagreed with your manager? How did you deal with it?
- What does it mean to you to be a team player?
- Tell me about a time you had to work with a colleague that you didn’t get along with.
What To Look For:
A candidate with the ability to communicate well, actively listen and respond honestly will do well working as part of a team. Empathy and awareness of others are also qualities of a good team player.
3. AN ABILITY TO SELF-MANAGE:
Is the candidate sufficiently self-motivated or self-disciplined? Can they manage time effectively? Working remotely means that work/life boundaries can get blurred and this can make it challenging to effectively manage time. When building a remote team, look for an independent worker who’s responsible for managing their time and setting clear boundaries between deep work and shallow tasks. If someone is consistently late, isn’t good at tracking the time, or is unable to communicate clear boundaries, remote work likely isn’t for them.
What To Ask:
- What is your preferred management style?
- What do you when you sense a task is going to take longer than expected?
- When you had extra time available at your last job, describe ways you found to make your job more efficient.
- How do you keep yourself motivated when you experience a setback on the way to achieve your goal?
What To Look For:
A candidate who arrives on time and is well prepared for the interview. This may mean the candidate has downloaded the appropriate meeting app ahead of time, is dressed appropriately for the virtual interview, has a professional background or home-working space, and one who has prepared questions about the organisation.
4. A POSITIVE DISPOSITION:
When teams are motivated and positive, they accomplish more and they also have fun being a part of the team. A positive attitude and disposition can go a long way to successfully meeting some of the challenges of working remotely. Several studies have shown that happy, content, positive thinking people are more successful in their careers, more creative and work well with other people.
What To Ask:
- Tell me about a situation when you dealt with conflict in the workplace remotely.
- Have you ever felt that your skills were being overlooked? What did you do to improve the situation?
- What’s the toughest lesson you’ve learned in the last year?
- How do you handle negative feedback?
What To Look For:
A candidate who shows enthusiasm for working with your organisation, who asks genuine questions about the role and the work. A candidate who does not badmouth previous employers, but rather provides a forward-looking and positive review of their past experiences.
5. ABILITY TO HANDLE WORKING REMOTELY:
According to the 2020 State of Remote Work Report 20% of remote workers say they struggle with loneliness. A successful candidate will need to be happy and comfortable working on their own and motivating themselves to do so. When hiring a remote employee, look for a self-starter; someone with the confidence to make key decisions on their own.
What To Ask:
- How much of your social life comes from work?
- Where do you feel you are most productive?
- Have you ever worked remotely? What were some of the challenges you faced?
- Why do you want to work from home?
What To Look For:
A self-motivated and technology savvy candidate who does not derive a huge portion of their social lives from work. One who can manage flexible work hours to accommodate overseas colleagues and who feels productive working from anywhere.
RANKING YOUR CANDIDATES
Using your candidate criteria and the candidate’s interview answers to the assessment questions, you can vote on which candidate you think is best. It is mostly likely that a manager or direct line of report, an HR representative and a senior manager will each cast their vote on the candidates.
A simple scoring mechanism using Google Excel works well to manage the candidate’s scores.
At the end of each interview, the key decision-makers give each candidate a score out of 25. In this example, 1 = no ability/willingness; 2 = not a strong enough ability/willingness; 4 = a promising ability/willingness; and 5 = a strong ability/willingness. The highest scoring candidate indicates the best performing candidate.