Retrospectives are an important (and frequently poorly done) practice. They provide an opportunity for discussion, learning, and adaptation. Without retrospectives, a team is likely to fall into a soothing rhythm and fail to recognize early the need for change.
But retrospectives themselves can become common and numbing. The same moderator, the same three questions, in the same room, at the same time .... (yawn).
Here are a few tips on keeping your retrospectives fresh.
Change Venues and Schedule
Hold iterations in different rooms. Move them to the afternoon before or the morning after their regularly scheduled time. You'll get a different energy and perhaps a different perspective.
Not only can changing the moderator change the pace and style of the discussion, but it can change the way people communicate. Allow each team member who is interested the opportunity to moderate retrospectives.
We're all familiar with the standard three-question, moderator as scribe format for retrospectives. Mix it up. Use the starfish or circle of questions. Have people write their own suggestions on index cards, have a third-party collect them and write them on the board. Find new ways of soliciting input and you will get new input.
Hold retrospectives with a broader focus. Rather than discussing the last iteration and the next iteration, discuss the last several weeks or months and the next few months. Allow the team to not only discuss the tactical, but the strategic. With a new focus comes new perspective and new insight.
Retrospectives are about learning and adapting. They are critical to the long-term success of an Agile team. If you're not doing them; start now. If you are, make sure you keep them fresh to get maximum value from them.