One of the most critical aspects of any agile process is the inspection/adaptation cycle. However, retrospective meetings often feel pointless because nobody can think of anything to say. If they do, it’s usually a positive platitude. While great for morale and team strength, the power of agility is somewhat wasted here. You have ignored your opportunity to react to change. This is not necessarily due to feeling pressured (though that is sometimes the case). The team just lacks the mindset that allows them to identify places where they’re being held back.
Often times teams also lack the insight required to locate the best solution to any of the problems identified. For example, while teams might realize that they are being hurt by an unresponsive stakeholder during the sprint, their first response might be to simply follow up more. The team’s instincts are to compensate for an external problem instead of changing they way they work to eliminate the problem.
To ensure a productive retrospective, team members must trust each other enough to feel comfortable openly criticizing themselves and each other. Team members must be willing to put everything on the table and objectively evaluate it, no matter how deeply rooted it is. Team members have to be invested in their team’s productivity, even if it plays at odds with their own comfort.
Getting people to think this way is not easy, and to some degree must be learned from life experience. However, there are a few ways to create an environment that facilitates this behavior in teams.
Getting your team to more productively self-evaluate in this fashion will enable them to get better over time, regardless of how well they are already doing. They become more honest, more open to criticism, and more flexible. They unlock the potential of a self-organizing, self-motivated team within your company.