The realtime retrospective is a way of capturing feedback or information to help improvements in realtime. I recently tried it out at Agile in the City Bristol with some great results.
I was booked in to do a workshop at the conference. My workshop was called “Are your standups and retrospectives really working?” and the aim of it was to talk about the effectiveness of these agile forums and for participants to come away with some new ideas.
Last month I was at GOTO Copenhagen and saw the wonderful Linda Rising who was doing a talk on the continuous retrospective and I wanted to find a way to incorporate it into my workshop. My initial idea was to run it in the hour I had, but thought that it would be difficult in the time I had. My session ended up being packed (it’s a topic close to a lot of people’s hearts) so it would have been very difficult for anyone to move around to add to it.
Instead, I approached the organisers and asked if we could run it as an experiment for the whole conference, giving me a chance to try it out and them a way of gathering feedback throughout the conference. They enthusiastically said yes, this is what happened and how I went about it.
I put the timeline up in a place where everyone would be passing. The timeline itself was on a sheet of brown paper with the day divided into hour slots with breaks marked up. I added some instructions and also a couple of Post-it notes to show people what to do and get it started.
It worked really well, people quickly got the idea and started posting to the timeline.
The value to the organisers was seeing feedback in real-time; this meant that when someone added some negative feedback, they could respond. A great example is when someone put some negative feedback about there not being any non-dairy milk, they quickly got some soya milk out for the next break.
Or when someone posted up about not having coffee to get them through the afternoon during the lunch break, it was rectified on the next day.
The venue also found it really valuable, they also started checking it regularly and responding; when the main room was too cold, they turned the air-con off. The speakers loved it too, it meant that they could see instant feedback on their talks.
This way of collecting feedback feels much more agile and responsive than the slower cycle of collecting feedback after a conference and making changes a year later.
The organisers, venue and various people at the conference and on Twitter seem keen on using it again at their own events or in their teams.
2023 Update: the conference organisers have continued to use this at all their events, and many others have followed suit. It’s great to see it spread.