I'm now working as a coach for two XP development teams at Unruly. One of the issues that we identified to from the start is retrospectives had become a little stale and in need of freshening up. Although I have plenty of facilitation experience, I would rather see the team members grow their own skills than for me to facilitate every retrospective. So I put out an invitation to all team members interested in learning about retrospective facilitation. Anyone interested in taking a turn at facilitating a retrospective of the other team (than the one they're currently in) gets personal coaching from me.
A week or so before the retrospective, I arrange to meet with each new facilitator to discuss their ideas for the design and preparation for facilitating the next session. We sketch out the design with some further reading and make a list what needs to be done (source sticky notes , book suitable room, find out what happened on actions and working agreements from previous retrospective, contact remote participants). This approach enables me to join in the retrospective as a participant and also to offer some feedback to the new person facilitating after the retrospective is over.
Each new facilitator brings a fresh approach to the meeting and being from another team has a neutral perspective to current issues being faced. In taking the plunge to lead a retrospective, they are able to build their confidence as meeting facilitators in a safe environment. I hope that as we grow our facilitation skills and become more familiar with the meeting mechanics that we will get deeper engagement in our retrospectives.
Naturally, a little patience is required from the team hosting a new facilitator - this is often the first time that they've run some retrospective activities and pacing these comes with practice. Facilitating is hard work - paying attention to the current conversataion at the same time as watching the clock and keeping legible notes is not as easy as it looks! Another challenge that they've taken in their stride is one of our team working in a remote location and experimented with a number of different approaches to include her in our retrospectives.
Luckily Patrick Kua has just written an excellent new book on retrospectives, we bought it for our team right away. Patrick is an experienced coach and technical leader with many practical tips to share in The Retrospective Handbook: a guide for agile teams. This book is perfectly pitched for the new facilitator going over key steps in preparing and leading a retrospective (nicely complementing Agile Retrospectives which is more of a recipe book of activities). Patrick's book also includes handy chapters on Distributed Retrospectives and Keeping Retrospectives Fresh so ideal for our team.
I'd be interested to hear questions or comments on this approach to sharing retrospective facilitation between teams.