My first post in 2020 will look back at a recent retrospective held at a client in the run up to Christmas 2019. Those that know me will know that I like to get “creative” in agile delivery – sometimes it works, sometimes it falls flat, but either way I’ll keep trying. Agile is about inspection and adaptation after all.
The “Yellow Brick Road” retrospective is based (yes you guessed it) on the wonderful L. Frank Baum story (and subsequent film) called the “Wizard of Oz“. To run it you will need some A4 paper (ideally yellow!) as well as the usual post-it notes (three different colours – red/green/blue are perfect), and some space for participants to move around in (you might struggle with this retro in a meeting room!)
This retro format is best suited for an end of year/phase/stage where there is a lot to look back on and time to change things for the better in the future. A team re-organisation or a new product focus also works well.
Start by getting participants to write on the A4 yellow paper about how they currently feel about the work they are, or have been doing. This can include accomplishment/achievements but also challenges/problems that they have faced. Allow 5-10 minutes for this.
Find some space for the team to use as we are going to create a “yellow brick road” from the A4 pieces of paper. Get each participant to read out what they have written and create a “road” on the floor, one piece of A4 after the other, giving time for each participant to talk, and constructing the road, ideally in a “meandering” way (if you have seen the film, think of the road Dorothy follows out of Munchkin Land).
If this retro is being run to cover quite a long time period, where a lot of things may have happened, then this can be broken into stages. Identify the stages and then break them down into “Scarecrow”, “Tin Man”, “Cowardly Lion”. Each stage could represent one time period (sprint/phase/etc) or problem area (structure, scope, environment, etc). Participants can write one piece of yellow A4 per stage if need be (when I ran this we created quite a large road….)
So far so good, from an individual perspective, everyone should have contributed and there should be some consensus around common areas. Next we will introduce the organisational angle – in a similar vein – what has the organisation been like to help/facilitate improvement and what has it done to get in the way (feel free to use different terminology but the idea here is to weave together personal feedback and organisational impact).
We will introduce the organisational angle via post-it notes – one colour will be the “good witch of the North” (representing what the organisation has done to make the world a better place) and another colour will be the “wicked witch of the west” (representing the barriers and limitations the organisation has).
Now if most of this is not making sense, now might be a good time to watch the movie 🙂
Get everyone to fill in the post-it notes and then get participants to wander down the yellow brick road explaining their post-it notes and highlighting where, when, and to who, the organisation has impacted – good and bad. Some things will impact many people (and effect several pieces of A4 paper) and some will be impacting individuals only. This worked well by placing one set of post-it notes (good witch) one one side (North?) of the yellow brick road and the other colour (wicked witch) on the other side.
Now for the inspect and adapt part. The way to play this out is to aim for the “Emerald City” – a place that (appears to be) the best place in the world! Using the third coloured post it notes (emerald/green?) get the participants to outline what they want – in an ideal sense – to make their world a better place. Everything is on the table here, organisationally and individually. Encourage participants to aim high. If they could wave a magic wand what would they change to improve delivery. Participants should share these, ideally on a wall, and construct the “Emerald City”.
Allow a little bit of time for reflection…..
Now back to reality (“Kansas – there’s no place like home”). Participants should then take one post-it and write an action plan of what they will do when they get “home”. Some will write things that involve changes in individual behaviours, others may require organisational changes to be made, others may be team changes. The key thing here as facilitator is to make sure they are achievable.
Hopefully with this format “the yellow brick road” will lead you to the “emerald castle” and ultimately back home to “Kansas” with an improved team…….