Eleanor Mollett

Eleanor Mollett

Should delivery managers run retros?


When I was a delivery manager, I ran the retros. I set them up, facilitated them, guided people through each section, teased out peoples feelings, and tried to gather up some actions to keep things improving.

When I became a developer, I got to work with a great delivery manager. She organised rotation of the retros between the members of the team. Somehow it had never occurred to me that this was a thing I could do. I thought it was my job to run the retros, but I realised it was actually my job to make sure the retro process happened.

Rotating worked great.

Buffy themed retro Buffy themed retro

We had some wonderful creative retros. Because you only had to do one once in a while, people had the time to come up with some great themes. But even without the themes, rotating meant we got something different each time.

Night before christmas themed retro Night before Christmas themed retro

Everyone has a different style, not just in the format of the retro, but how they facilitate it. They focus on different areas, they draw out different things from the team. The way they pose the retro can have a big difference on what issues people bring to the table. However well trained you are in different facilitation styles, however many formats you have up your sleeve, you’ll never create the range that several people can.

Microsoft themed retro Microsoft themed retro

Sometimes the person running the retro wouldn’t have the same facilitation skills as a well trained delivery manager. But the delivery manager is still there in the retro, getting to observe and can pick up on things to draw out later. This can sometimes work better - rather than drawing out issues in front of everyone you can get more to the root of things 1:1 later on. By not running the actual meeting, the DM has more time to observe.

Finally on a more personal note, I realised afterwards that if you are always the one running the retro, always the one facilitating and assisting, you are always apart from the team. I think this comes back to the shit umbrella style of delivery management, but you aren’t really a full part of the team if you can’t bring your own issues to the retro and get help from the rest of the team in fixing them. It makes the role very lonely, and removes all responsibility for improving the team from the people within the team.