This blog is NOT about distributed teams and running distributed retrospectives.
This blog IS about collocated or kinda collocated teams and the benefits of holding an off-site retrospective.
Before we get into it, it's important to note that some organizations frown on off-site retrospectives. Management can sometimes get nervous when they can't actually see the teams or have arms length access to them.
While an off-site retrospective can turn into an afternoon of alcoholic indulgence that produces little value on company time, it rarely turns out that way.
Is it common for teams to partake in a few beers during an off-site retrospective? Absolutely, but that's not a bad thing. The combination of being out of the office and having liquid courage, encourages team members to talk about things they would normally abstain from. It also gives them the opportunity to come up with creative solutions to these hidden problems.
On-site retrospectives are not bad but they can lead to anti-patterns. For example, team members may be clock watching and going through the retrospective motions just so they can get back to their desk to work on that really important thing. In other cases, retrospectives can be interrupted by management (and others) to highlight something really important (perhaps an outage) which throws the the entire retrospective off-course.
Finally, an off-site retrospective can help to boost morale. This is especially important if you just came off of a tough sprint.
So if you haven't tried an off-site retrospective, please do.