3.2 Managing Group Dynamics

Most of the time managing group dynamics in a retrospective means managing participation: making sure people who have something to say have the chance and making sure people who have a lot to say don’t dominate. Watch out for people who are talking more (or much less) than others. Make an opening for the quieter team members by asking to hear other opinions. Notice when someone looks as though he or she was about to speak but was cut off. Ask whether he or she has something to say. Create an opportunity without putting people on the spot or demanding an answer ( How to Improve Meetings When You’re Not in Charge [Der03]).

To draw out quieter people, try saying something like “We haven’t heard Leigh and Venkat yet. What would you add?” Be willing to accept a pass.

If someone just won’t shut up, be direct (in private). If you’ve observed the pattern, talk to the person before the retrospective. Describe your observations, and describe the impact on the team—other people have stopped participating. Ask him or her to hold back. If the private conversation doesn’t work, be direct in the retrospective. When one team member is first to speak on every question, hold up a hand and say, “We’ve heard from you on every question; let’s hear from some other people.” Keep your tone neutral. An emphatic delivery—“We’ve HEARD from YOU on EVERY question”—conveys blame and won’t help the retrospective.

Managers won’t be in every retrospective, but when they are, they ...

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