Agile Teams Having Fun With Retrospectives

Categories: Agile | Scrum |

In Agile development the retrospective meeting is one of the most important elements, but Scrum Masters and their teams far too often overlook it, or don´t give it sufficient attention.

In this blog post I will first highlight the importance of the retrospective, particularly for getting the team to collaborate. Secondly, I´ll provide some tools and pointers to ensure successful retrospectives.

Why we have retrospectives

Feedback Cycle Loops

Retrospectives take place after the Sprint ends. It is an opportunity for the team to give their thoughts about:

  • What went well?
  • What can be improved?
  • Which action plan can we take?

Retrospectives are also crucial for fostering collaboration between team members. When you´re analyzing the past and preparing for the future, people come together. These are crucial collaboration moments.

Let’s now review some tools to help excite the team about participating in the meeting!

Retrospective Agenda

Context

Start every meeting by giving context to it. For example:

Main Course

“This retrospective is for Sprint 14 of 16, for the mobile banking team. In the next Sprint we should start with regression prior to getting to the main production stage. We’re making great progress so far so let’s check where we need to push to achieve our goal.”

Prime directive

In the book Project Retrospectives, Norman Kerth introduced the concept of the Prime Directive, a statement intended to help set the stage for the retrospective. The Prime Directive states:

“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.”

The Prime Directive is a statement that helps drive people into a collaborative mindset. It’s a belief that the team must hold during the activities which follow. Kerth’s prime directive is appropriate for retrospectives, but it can be changed as needed to fit other kinds of activities.

Energizer – Optional

This is an optional step, but it can be really valuable in getting the team to warm up and encourage interaction. It is essentially any activity that helps foster team work and communication. It is particularly effective in the early stages of team building.

Check-In – Optional

Check-in activities gather information such as how the participants feel towards the meeting, and how they felt regarding the context. Particularly after setting the context and reading the prime directive, the check-in can be particularly useful.

Main Course

The main course is the core of a meeting seeking continuous improvement. It is composed of one or more activities, and it is also the moment for the team to discuss their notes. These activities are used to gather data, bring up feelings, talk about the positive stuff, recognize people, and seek improvements. They drive the team to reflect about the given context, reinforce a shared vision and generate insights.

At this stage, team members need to feel heard. Here is an example of a main course:

Always choose your main course wisely, having the moment, participants and purpose in mind. This is the main activity on your meeting and the information gathered and discussed will set the tone for continuous improvement.

Filtering

Filtering activities involve analyzing the data you collected in the main course, and making a decision based on prioritization, voting, and comparison. It is also about finding and creating the commitment and alignment with your team that will lead to next steps. Effective filtering depends on how well the main course activity is explored. An unsatisfying set of notes will result in unsatisfying filtering. If you are having trouble with filtering, the root of your problem lies elsewhere; consider rethinking the check-in and the main course activities.

Activity Options

For each of the outlined agenda stages we have several activities that I’ll just mention on this post but you can find out more about by searching on the web:

Energizers:

  • Punctual Paulo
  • Geographic Location
  • One Two Ping Four Pong
  • Forming Triangles
  • Zip Zap Zoom
  • Balloon Battle

Check-in:

  • Safety Check
  • Creating Safety
  • ESVP – Explorer, Shopper, Vacationer, Prisoner
  • Happiness Radar

Building Teams

  • Defining the Team Vision Statement
  • Collaborative Product Vision
  • That Guy and This Guy
  • General Behavior Activity
  • Clear Trade-off Sliders
  • Role Expectations Matrix
  • Defining the Team Principles
  • Ground Rules
  • Token of Appreciation

Retrospectives: Looking Back

  • Peaks and Valleys Timeline
  • Empathy Snap on Big Hitter Moments
  • Repeat/Avoid
  • Speed Car
  • Hot-air Balloon
  • Anchors and Engine
  • WWW: Worked well, kinda Worked, didn’t Work
  • KALM – Keep, Add, More, Less
  • Open the Box
  • The Story of a Story
  • Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down, New Ideas and Recognition
  • Timeline Driven by Feelings
  • Timeline Driven by Data
  • FLAP: Future direction, Lessons learned, Accomplishments and Problem areas
  • Dealing with Failure – FMEA
  • DAKI – Drop, Add, Keep, Improve
  • The 4 Ls: Liked, Learned, Lacked, Longed For
  • The 3 Ls: Liked, Learned, Lacked
  • Starfish
  • Small Starfish
  • PMI – Plus, Minus, Interesting
  • Lessons Learned – Planned vs Success
  • Feedback and Return of Investment
  • Grade It Please

Futurespectives: Looking Ahead

  • Defining and Finding the Path to Nirvana
  • Pre-mortem Activity
  • Speed Car – Abyss
  • Plan of Action
  • Future Facebook Posts
  • Risk Brainstorming and Mitigation
  • Filtering
  • Dot Voting
  • Plus Minus Voting

As a Scrum Master choose the activities that you think your team will feel most comfortable with. This will help your team run successful retrospectives, constantly improve, and achieve project goals.

Sources:

Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Reviews – Norman L. Kerth Fun Retrospective – Paulo Caroli