The Certainty Retrospective

Keeping up the theme of posting on new and innovative Scrum retrospectives my latest attempt to inject both humor and value hit the button last week.
This one worked because the project team was moving across project phases, we’d just finished one and were moving into the next. As a consequence of this there was clear shift from working in the “comfort zone”, with tools, people, activities and the like that everyone was clear on, into something much more uncertain – new tools, people and activities. Basically breaking new ground.
I detected by “walking the floor” (that most essential of Scrum Master skills) that there were maybe certain members of the team who were fully switched on with where the project was going, and others that were not.
From this I took the term “certainty” to be the focus point of the retrospective and the first part of the session was to take a “thermometer” of how “certain” the team was in terms of where the project was going.
First, using a whiteboard, draw a picture of a thermometer. This is where the first humor hit. No matter how you try, whatever you draw will release a flood of innuendo that is hard to stifle. Go with it…..
Then mark the end points of the thermometer “Certain” at the top, and “Uncertain” at the bottom.
Then get the team members to draw a “self portrait” of themselves on a post-it note. Nothing too heavy, just a quick doodle of how they think they look. You will find there are some team members who are budding old artists….and some who cannot draw for toffee….which is what you want! During this the Scrum Master should look away – you’ll see why in a second.
Then, ask the team members to put their post-it note on the thermometer at a position which indicates how certain they are about what they need to do next in the project. Are they are certain about the tools, people, activities or whatever that they will do in the next sprint – if so, these should go towards the top. If the opposite is true and they are clearly uncertain, then these would go towards the bottom.
Once everyone has finished you may (or may not) see a general spread of answers, from people who are highly certain on what they should be doing, versus those who a very uncertain, and the majority somewhere in between.
The next step is for the Scrum Master to try and guess the individual self-portraits – humor check point – as believe me, this will be hard – and scribble the names down on the post-its.
The Scrum Master should then take names from the top and pair or group them with names from the bottom – certain + uncertain to work in partners. The point of this exercise is to try and create balanced mix so that people can become more certain on where they are going or, in some cases, get a reality check and realize not everything is as they thought.
These “break out” groups can then focus on the normal retrospective stuff – what is making you un-certain (i.e. what should we stop?) and what would make you more certain (i.e. what should we continue going?).
Let the usual retrospective idea generation process run its course and then re-convene as a group to share the ideas. The outcome should be a set of actions that allow those that are uncertain to get more certain – training, meeting people, pointers to documentation or whatever.
For one final laugh leaver the whiteboard with the “thermometer” on in full view for other people and teams to notice…..


About craigpearson004

"Enabling Continuous Delivery" - Creative Agile Partners ( provides support to organisations transforming their way of working and looking to be "world class" in everything they do....
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