One of the things that constantly surprises me about facilitating retrospectives is about the energy that a well run session can result in. For most heartbeat retrospectives, I feel it’s not normally that useful to write up a comprehensive report, as the team should feel ownership of the action items.
An important aspect to the role of the facilitator, is to do as much as they can to sustain the energy of the group and to tap into everyone’s capacity for embracing and dealing with change. Helping people contribute their story to the retrospective helps. Letting people tell their story in full helps. Facilitating difficult conversations towards a non destructive outcome helps. Moving the team towards specific, tangible actions or concrete lessons learns helps.
After the retrospective, I’ve always wondered what responsibility the facilitator has for ensuring change. My conclusion is that, in reality if they are truly independent, it’s none. Of course, the facilitator may care (and I can assure you I do) about following through on the change, yet all the systemic forces that push for and against change tend to be out of the influence of a truly independent facilitator.
In short, retrospectives are agents for change, yet ultimately it comes down to the empowered team to make sure the changes really happen. My advice to managers is to give teams responsibility and, with that, the decision making authority, to help them make the changes they need to.