Can retrospectives be made leaner?

The <enter time period> ends and a retrospective is held.  The team writes on Post-It notes things that are important to them and they get stuck up on the wall.  And maybe they get grouped into similar topics or themes.  And then the team vote on them; the topic that has the most votes is the one the group talks about first…. and they talk about that topic at length.  (If you were to analyse the signal to noise ratio of the first topic discussed compared with the last topic discussed, you’d find significantly more noise when you start).  Actions to resolve the issues are finally addressed and identified.  The team then move on to the next topic and so on until all the topics that had votes against them are done.  And it’s been a marathon session and we are done.

But what about the topics that no-one voted on?  What about the post-it that sits alone?  It was important enough for someone to have written it.  No votes, no priority,  no discussion, no action.  Yet mining it might have  delivered a diamond action.

I don’t care much for voting in retrospectives.  It’s not a particularly efficient way of doing things.  For one because the actual process of voting takes up valuable time.  Then by the time the issue with the fewest votes comes up, the energy in the room is drained and the discussion is rushed.  So why not do away with the voting, and introduce strict time management to the retrospective discussion.  Allow five minutes to each topic.  Use a stop watch to enforce this.  This will allow all the issues that were of importance to someone to be aired.  When the five minutes is up, if there is still heat in the discussion, park it and return to it later in the retrospective.  Such an approach is more incremental, and dare I say it, Lean.