lördag 9 februari 2019

Have you tested these types of retrospectives?

The standard retro :)  :(  💡 
In the teams I've been a member of the standard retrospective has been variants of making a list of "What has been good, what has been bad, what can be improved". Sometimes this has been working very well, but sometimes the team runs out of ideas. Then it probably can be inspiring to do the retrospective a bit different than usual.

Activities from the book Agile Retrospectives
I'll use this post to shortly describe the types of retrospective activities that can be found in the book Agile Retrospectives, Making Good Teams Great. So read that book if you want more details.

If you're favourite activity for a retrospective isn't described below, I'd love it if you describe it in a comment to the post! 😃

The meeting structure
This is the meeting structure described in the book. Each stage got a list of activities that is a good fit for that stage. Some activities can be used in different stages of the meeting, but is listed only once.
  1. Set the stage.
    - Check-in
    - Focus on/Focus off
    - Explorer, shopper, vacationer, prisoner (ESVP)
    - Working agreements
  2. Gather data.
    - Timeline
    - Triple nickels
    - Color code dots
    - Mad sad glad
    - Locate strengths
    - Satisfaction histogram
    - Team radar
    - Like to like

    Will be covered in future posts
  3. Generate insights.
    - Brainstorming/filtering
    - Force field analysis
    - Five whys
    - Fishbone
    - Patterns and shifts
    - Prioritize with dots
    - Report out with synthesis
    - Identify themes
    - Learning matrix
  4. Decide what to do.
    - Retrospective planning game
    - SMART goals
    - Circle of questions
    - Short subjects
  5. Close the retrospective.
    - +/Delta
    - Appreciations
    - Temperature reading
    - Helped, hindered, hypothesis
    - Return on time invested (ROTI)
Activities to set the stage
Setting the stage prepares the team for the work they’ll do in the retrospective.

Help people put aside other concerns and focus on the retrospective.
Help people articulate what they want from the retrospective.

Ask one question that each person can answer with a word or two.

  • In one or two words, what is happening for you right now?
  • What is one thing that's on your mind?
It's OK to say "I pass"

Focus on/focus off
Help establish a mind-set for productive communication. Help participants set aside blaming and judgment—and fear of blaming and judgment.

In small groups, discuss, reflect and describe the list of words in the list below. For example ,one pair of words per group. Focus on the first word, focus off the last word.
  • Inquiry rather than Advocacy
  • Dialogue rather than Debate
  • Conversation rather than Argument
  • Understanding rather than Defending

ESVP (Explorer, Shopper, Vacationer, Prisoner)
Focus people on the work of the retrospective. Understand people’s
attitudes to the retrospective. Use this to set the stage in a longer iteration, release, or project retrospective.

Everyone reports anonymously his or her attitude toward the retrospective as one of the types in the list below. 
  • Explorers are eager to discover new ideas and insights. They want to learn everything they can about the iteration/release/project.
  • Shoppers will look over all the available information, and will be happy to go home with one useful new idea.
  • Vacationers aren’t interested in the work of the retrospective, but are happy to be away from the daily grind. They may pay attention some of the time, but they are mostly glad to be out of the office.
  • Prisoners feel that they’ve been forced to attend and would rather be doing something else.
The result is presented. If there is a prisoner or many vacationers that fact could be a topic for the retrospective.

Working agreements
Establish a set of behaviors that will support the team in having productive discussions. Establish that team members are responsible for monitoring their interactions. Provide candidates for day-to-day working agreements if the team doesn’t already have them.

Team members work together to generate ideas for effective behaviors at work then choose five to seven agreements to guide team interactions or processes.

Activities to gather data
Gathering data creates a shared picture of what happened during the iteration, release, or project.

Stimulate memories of what happened during the increment of work.

Group members write down events that happened during the selected time period and want to share with the group. Each event is written on a separate paper and then placed on a timeline on a position that represents the time that the event took place.

Can be combined with a curve of how each person felt during the period. Each person can draw a line that stretches for the whole period. For moments that were good, draw the line high, for moments that were bad, draw the line low.

Triple nickels
Can also be used in the Decide what to do phase.

Uncover important topics about the period the retrospective is held for. Can also be used for generating ideas.

Each person writes down topics or ideas on a paper. Then everbody passes the paper to the neighbour that writes down his or her topics or ideas related to the ones that already are on the paper. Repeat until that papers are back where they started.
Read the ideas for the group and discuss. Examples of usable debrief questions
  • Did anything surprise you?
  • Is anything missing?
  • What should we examine further?
I think this activity has been named Triple nickels because a person that used it asked three debriefing questions which she wanted five answers to, like "What five things stand out for you about what you've read?" A nickel is five cents.

Color code dots
Used in conjunction with a timeline to gather and show data about the feelings experienced during the timeline period.

Use different colored stickers to mark the papers that were written for the timeline earlier. The color of the stickers indicate the energy level the person had when doing things related to the thing described on the paper.
Investigate the result, for example, if a paper got lots of high energy stickers, how come? What factors made people feel that way?

Mad sad glad
Get the feeling facts out on the table.

Each person writes a card for every event that happened during the period that made the person mad, sad or glad. Cluster cards that is related to the same event and analyse the clusters.

Locate strengths
Identify strengths so the team can build on them in the next iteration.

Pair up and interview each other with a focus on what went well and factors around it.

Satisfaction histogram
Highlight how satisfied team members are with a focus area. Provide a visual picture of current status in a particular area to help the team have deeper discussions and analysis. Acknowledge differences in perspective among team members.

Each person anonymously grades his/her satisfaction with a certain focus area. Read the answers and draw a histogram to make the data visible.
Focus area examples:

  • teamwork
  • product
  • process
Grade descriptions example when focusing on team work:
  1. = I'm unhappy and dissatisfied with our level of teamwork
  2. = I have some moments of satisfaction, but not enough
  3. = I'm fairly satisfied. We work well together most of the time.
  4. = I am glad I'm a part of the team and satisfied with how our team works together
  5. = I think we are the best team on the planet! We work great together.

For a rather big team, that has a wide range of satisfaction for a topic, a histogram could look like the image below.

Team Radar
Help the team gauge how well they are doing on a variety of measures, such as, engineering practices, team values, or other processes.

Each person grades (0-10) how well the team is performing for different factors. Present the average values in a diagram. Save it to be able to compare to the result next time doing the same activity.

Like to like
Help team members recall their experiences during the iteration and hear that others may have perceived it differently.

Like to like is a team work variant of the game Apples to apples. Each person writes cards with things to stop doing, things to keep doing and things to start doing. These cards are then used in the game, and the players will try to find the best match of their cards to another card presented by a player having the role as judge.
Discuss insights from the game afterwards.

More activities
I'll try to write another post about the remaining activities described in the book later on. I hope this post has given you a sketchy picture of a few activities you'd like to try and/or read more about.

Here's two links to other resources for retrospective activities.