Insights: Agile scaling with cross-team retrospectives

Christoph Dibbern
3 min readMay 30, 2022

Misunderstandings, lack of communication, or conflicts not only burden the collaboration within a team, but also the processes between the teams in larger agile projects. When Scrum scales, there needs to be a way to analyze and continuously improve collaboration between teams in addition to internal team processes. The simplest solution is to regularly invite cross-team retrospectives.

Comparable to the classic team retrospective, the employees exchange information with each other, reflect on and discuss positive and negative aspects of their cooperation, and derive concrete improvement measures.

The universal tool

In one of my last projects, ingrained conflicts between two teams were to be resolved. There are different approaches to running cross-team retrospectives — I have had good experiences with the “universal tool” according to De Shazer: The solution-oriented short-term therapy is ideal for coaching situations in which the aim is to recognize and strengthen “positive differences”.

The three basic principles

  • “Don’t fix what ain’t broken!”
  • “Find out what works well and fits — and do more of it!”
  • “If something doesn’t work and fit well enough despite a lot of effort — then stop doing it and try something else!”

After self-reflection, the universal tool focuses on the joint development of a worst-case scenario and a best-case scenario, which provide approaches for the action plan.

Our schedule

For our purposes, I had slightly adapted and expanded the process:

Introduction (10 minutes)

Explain the reason for the retrospective and state two important principles:

  • Prime Directive: “Each team member acted to the best of their knowledge and belief.”
  • Vegas principle: “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”

Collect data (approx. 45 minutes in total)

Knowledge market (10 minutes): Goals of the two teams and their expectations of each other

  • Self-reflection (10 minutes): Scale question “Where do we stand today in relation to our goals / our cooperation?” Rating from 0 to 10 (blue at the time of the 1st retrospective, yellow 6 weeks later). A separate evaluation from an emotional and factual point of view would also be possible.

Worst case question (20 minutes): “What would we have to do to really slide down the scale?” (yellow paper)

Best case question (10 minutes): “What would be different if we were at 10 on the scale?” (green slip)

Gain Insights (15 minutes)

  • Possibility to ask questions about the “Worst-Case” and “Best-Case” notes
  • Clustering of similar topics
  • If necessary, prioritize the top 3 topics in order not to tackle too many challenges at once
  • Measures / Goals (10 minutes)

Joint derivation of “From now on” topics

  • Formulate SMART goals and measures with responsibilities and deadlines (what-who-when)

Conclusion (max. 10 minutes)

  • Overview of the agreed goals and measures
  • Arrange a follow-up appointment (4 weeks at the latest)

The success

Thanks to my cross-team retrospective, cooperation was significantly improved within 6 weeks (see photo flipchart “Self-reflection”: a blue slip of paper before the retrospective / yellow slip of paper six weeks later).

--

--