Balancing and Managing time and people across multiple projects

Good morning, we’re retooling our retrospectives, feedback was that people were not getting value from the time spent. Would love to hear from the group. We recently went from one giant retro to projects based, but we’re in the weird middle size where some people work across projects.
Open questions:

  1. How to best schedule product retrospective when people work across two projects. How to best balance parallel (who goes to which one?) vs. serial (takes a lot of time).
  2. Creative formats? Add a social / ice-breaker activity to start?
  3. Some projects are in a maintenance mode. What’s the right frequency?

Thanks in advance, I can add more context if that would help.


Hopefully helpful ~0.01

  1. For parallel vs serial, I think this has more to do with the value from time question - IMO if it’s useful, people would be ok investing the time, and then it’s just a function of how best to organize the discussions. Usually, I try to organize it by work stream aka “project” to prevent confusion. But, practically, you can always change it later, so maybe start with a format that is a little more “efficient” while you’re trying to show value and adjust from there.

  2. Retromat has consistently made my teams and I look really smart and creative in our agendas…

  3. Hard to comment on frequency without more context. The big point here is having the feedback loop, and it sounds to me that the hypothesis is to have it less frequent for these projects.

So, maybe pick a “less frequent” interval and then adjust the interval later depending on whether or not

  • you’re not learning anything new retro-to-retro OR
  • you’re missing stuff.

Thanks @Michael, I’ll check out Retromat.
Also, for frequency, we started doing quick 5 minute surveys to get feedback, which as been successful. So it might be for a maintenance project with a small team and few tickets per sprint, we get quick temperature checks, and then maybe every 3rd sprint, do one in-person, and that’s enough. And of course, as you said, we can tweak the frequency based on the surveys or just general feedback.


I think you basically have two choices: optimize your retros for how things are today or optimize your retros for the org structure you’re moving towards. Since that’s probably one team per person, I’d consider sticking with projects based.

Do you need to be on every one of them? Can you push responsibility for retros down to someone who doesn’t have your level of responsibility?


Hey @Karan, definitely want to operate for your future planned team size.
It’s not just me, but some tech leads are assigned across projects. But to rephrase your question, do all leads on a project to be on all the assigned retros? I would say yes, although some would argue no, they should be able to choose one for that sprint.
I am wary of that, as I want to avoid situation where a lead doesn’t attend and then there are questions or issued raise regarding the person and they aren’t there to answer or provide context.

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We briefly worked with Carbon Five, and they have a simple & free retro tool called Stickies. Starting the comment with “I like” turns it green, and “I wish” turns it orange, and we’d have each person write a series of cards in the first 5 min and then we’d discuss it together. It was really effective way to surface themes from the project or from the sprint.

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^ Would love to know more about what this looks like and how you run and use it!

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Thanks, @Marco, we use the Stickies app too. It’s works pretty well, the free version does like 75% what I want it to do (but you get what you pay for). I think we do not a tool question, but a format questions. Glad it is working for you.

@Natalie, the survey is designed to be light weight and quick, 5 ranking question to get feedback on did they met their goals, level of clarity, over temperature check on how things are going.
3 open ended question on what to start doing, stop doing, and continue doing.
Survey is not anonymous, and within a week, summary of results with action items are shared.