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Trust, Bernhard Hermant

If you feel like you’re not getting good participation and feedback in your sprint or project retrospectives, you’ve got a problem. That problem might be that people don’t feel safe in sharing what they really think and feel.

Tactically, if people aren’t sharing the information you need to improve continuously, it’ll take you much longer to get where you’re going.

Strategically, it also means you’re at risk for losing those people to someplace where they feel safer.

One of the simplest and most popular practices you use to start addressing this problem is by opening each retrospective with Norm Kerth’s ‘Prime Directive of Project Retrospectives’ (book):

Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job he or she could, given what was known at the time, his or her skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.

Norman Kerth, Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Reviews

This statement and an honest attempt to practice it is a great way to open a discussion about sensitive topics with a positive intent to learn and address those topics.

Consider starting your next retrospective by sharing the Prime Directive and keeping it visible in notes that are being taken. This can be your initial step in creating a safer environment for team members to share their experience and learning.