A Retrospective of Retrospectives – Chinese Style

As an SCRUM master and Agile PM I’m always on the lookout for fresh and interesting ideas for retrospectives. For me the retrospective is a chance for the team to change gear, take time out from the daily grind, and have a bit of fun, while at the same time improving the performance of the team. Making it enjoyable is one of the interesting challenges that face the SCRUM master.
I’ve read most of the books now and searched on-line but often come up with retrospective techniques of my own. I thought I’d put something back by blogging about it here.

This particular retrospective came at the end of a release, and followed on the back of a few other retrospectives. I thought it wise to check back on the actions we took from earlier sessions and see if the team had embraced them all – or if they still applied. By revisiting old retrospectives you avoid repetition of items and allow the team to focus on new things.

At the start of the session I took a post-release team barometer on the whiteboard. I asked the team for a one (or two) word description on how they are feeling. Nothing elaborate, nothing difficult, just one or two words.

Various words came out, as you’d expect, and many were positive feelings (“excited”, “interesting”, “challenged”, etc.) but (importantly) many were negative feelings (“worried”, “blocked” etc.). Once all the words were captured I took a red and green pen and drew a circle around each word – green for positive (i.e. need to re-enforce) and red for negative (i.e. need to discourage).

I then broke the group into smaller teams. For this I used the Chinese Zodiac to inject a bit of fun (I’d recently enjoyed a speaking event in Beijing). All participants were asked to find their sign (Pig, Dragon, Ox, etc.) and using a previously prepared crib-sheet (widely available on line) compatible signs were placed together. There was some hilarity around the personality characteristics described by the Zodiac cards as they applied to some people exactly!

I then handed out pre-printed cards containing the (positive and negative, i.e. “do more” and “stop doing”) feedback and actions from earlier retrospectives. These were shared across the teams. The teams were then asked to look at the cards and see if they were still relevant. Those that were not (either because they are implemented or are no longer applicable) were placed in a ceremonial “bin”. Those that still applied (and the team agreed it was great to revisit previous feedback) were then affinity mapped against a positive or negative feeling on the whiteboard.

Stepping back and watching the team at work gives a SCRUM master great pride. Once all of the cards had either been mapped, or binned, the teams were asked to come up with new and fresh ideas for what the team should “do more” of, and what the team should “stop doing”. Basic retrospective stuff, I know, but much more relevant and up-to-date having reviewed all the previous feedback.

Playing the results back to the group there were two key areas of focus. Any negative feedback that has a “stop doing” card against it gives a real concern, and should be the focus of the main actions coming out of the retrospective. If you really don’t stop doing these things then negativity in the camp will persist. Conversely, any positive feedback supported by a “do more” card are the good habits that the team need to keep on doing.

Once the plan of action was wrapped up the team then indulged…..cakes, drinks, food – I’ve tried them all and they all work!


About craigpearson004

"Enabling Continuous Delivery" - Creative Agile Partners (http://www.CreativeAgile.co.uk) provides support to organisations transforming their way of working and looking to be "world class" in everything they do....
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