Trellospectives : Remote Retrospectives With Trello

As a distributed team working from Paris and Beirut, after pair programming, it was time for our retrospectives to get remote !

Initial setup

At first we were using the visio conference system. The retrospective facilitator would connect with the remote participants through instant chat and forward theirs post-its. We also used an extra webcam connected to the laptop in order to show the whiteboard in the other room.

Pros

  • Anyone can do it now
  • Kind of works

Cons

  • We often used to loose 5 minutes setting all the infrastructure up
  • The remote room cannot see the board clearly through the webcam
  • The animator has to spend his time forwarding the other room’s points
  • There is a ‘master’ and a ‘slave’ room

Sensei Tool

When Mohamad joined the team in Beirut, we thought that this was not going to scale … We decided to try something else. With the availability of the new conferencing system, we had the idea to use a web tool to run the retro. We found and tried senseitool.com. After creating accounts for every member of the team and scheduling a retrospective through the tool, we could all equally participate using our smartphones. The retrospective follows a typical workflow that is fine for teams new to the practice.

Pros

  • Even easier to setup
  • Works fine

Cons

  • The website was a bit slow
  • The retrospective was too guided for an experienced team, we did not get as good outputs as we used to
  • Everyone could participate as easily

Trello

Asking Google, we discovered that some teams were having success using Trello for their remote retrospectives. We decided to give it a try. Ahmad from Beirut got to work on our first retrospective with it. He had to prepare it beforehand (as we always have been doing). In practice :

  • Ahmad created an organization for our team
  • We all registered to Trello and joined the organization (we like joining (smile))
  • Ahmad created a custom board for each activity
  • During the meeting, we used the video conferencing system and the instant chat to have both visio and screen sharing
  • The animator used a laptop to manage the Trello boards
  • Everyone of us could add post-its through his smartphone app

Pros

  • The setup is easy
  • The retrospective worked well and delivered interesting output
  • We actually all see the board
  • The smartphone app works well
  • It is possible to vote directly through Trello
  • Everyone could participate as easily
  • We can classify post-its with labels
  • We can insert pictures and photos
  • There are a lot of chrome extensions to Trello (Vertical Lists for Trello), Card Color Titles for Trello

Cons

  • There is nothing to ‘group’ post its together
  • We need to prepare custom boards for every activity
  • We would need to pay for the gold version with custom backgrounds and stickers

Conclusion

While missing a few features that would make it awesome, Trello is the best tool we found for remote retrospective, and is better than our initial physical setup. We’re continuing to use it, and we now have to figure out

  • If we could find a way to speed up the meeting preparation
  • How to handle ‘graph oriented’ activities such as the ‘5 whys’

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