Inclusive retrospectives

A periodic retrospective meeting is invaluable for any team. In a retrospective, team members reflect on a phase of work, amplify what worked well and voice out issues that affected them. The team then collectively brainstorms solutions to these issues.

In such a meeting however, time is a constraint – there are often more points to discuss than the time available.

One way to resolve this is by using democratic voting. The team votes for issues that most people deem important. It then discusses these issues at the expsense of the ones with fewer votes. On the surface, this seems like a sound approach – the team’s precious meeting time is used to discuss matters that affect most people present. The flipside here is that if an issue only affects one or two of its members, this issue could go unaddressed for weeks, even if it is of critical importance to them. Further, if one member has an issue that only affects them, they are unlikely to bring it up, considering how nobody else is affected. This is particularly problematic for new entrants to the team.

Therefore, in our retrospective meetings, we need to replace voting with ‘share of voice’ – to ensure that everybody gets an equal opportunity to voice issues they deem important, regardless of how important others perceive them.

At our workplaces, inclusion is paramount. Therefore, giving everybody a voice should take precedence over a democratic vote.

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