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Should the Scrum Master validate the inputs from a retrospective

The retrospective can be the most challenging of the Scrum activities, because, well, people are involved. A former student, Vijay, asked me:
The scrum master is facilitating the retrospective meeting by hearing the positive and negative from the team members. Should the scrum master or team members validate each other's feedback during the retrospective? I hope the answer is....
Dear Vijay, I think the purpose of the first phase of a retrospective is to seek understanding. Different people in the team will have different truths. The objective is to understand all the truths, rather than to find the truth. So I prefer to ask the question, "what happened?" Just the facts, no judgements or accusations. Oh, by the way the left side (top half) of the flipchart,  this is for things that made you happy. The other half is for things that made you sad. It is helpful to understand the mood, but don't ask the question too soon, lest people focus too much on the thumbs up or down aspect of the question.

As a Scrum Master, it's my job is to prevent debate and other downward spirals. That's right, there is no such thing as a constructive debate! It drives people into their corners and makes agreement and consensus much more difficult. So people can ask clarifying questions of each other, but not rebut or challenge what was said, justify their own behavior or criticize others. "We understand and truly believe, everyone is doing the best job they can...." So we look for that 80% that everyone can agree on. This is the better basis for achieving a consensus for action.

As for recording, At each step of the retrospective, I would get cards up on a flip chart or pin board, then take a picture. As Scrum Master, I would only record individually those points that the team wants to act on in this sprint.

For a more complete discussion, check out "How we do a retrospective."


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