Your team doesn’t want to run retrospectives? Here's what to do.

It’s such a common problem. Your team simply refuses to take the time to run retrospectives. “We’re too busy!” they say. What should you do?

Well, one thing is very clear. Forcing people to do anything rarely works out well, and it’s pretty antithetical to the agile mindset anyway.

But that doesn’t mean skipping the retrospecting is okay; it’s not. Retrospectives are core to true agility and skipping them usually is a symptom of a broader problem.

So what to do?


Asking someone to do something they don’t want to do is bad enough. Asking them to do it for a full hour, every two weeks is even worse.

One alternative is to introduce shorter retrospectives. Even as short as 5 minutes in length.

At your daily standup, ask your team two additional questions: “What’s going well? What’s not going well?”

Guess what! That’s a retrospective. It’s inspecting and adapting. It’s trying to improve.

During those five minutes, listen closely to what your team has to say. Try to figure out the One Key Problem your team faces. Maybe it revolves around code quality. Or communication issues. Or user story clarity.

Regardless, listen in. Your goal should be to identify one potentially solvable problem your team is facing.

Then, go back and find the fix.

Because once your team realizes that things can actually change from those simple 5 minute discussions, you’ve already won. Your team just adopted the practice of the retrospective.

David Horowitz

David is Retrium's CEO & co-founder. Previously an agile coach at an international bank, David experienced the difficulty of running effective retrospectives at large companies first hand. He has a Masters in Technology Management from the University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton School of Business, as well as Computer Science and Economics degrees from the University of Maryland. He is married to his college sweetheart and is the father of three little ones!