Thursday, 9 August 2012

Ideas to liven up your Agile retrospectives

For almost a year, I led my team in a standard method of sprint retrospective:

  1. Draw happy and sad faces on the board
  2. Draw arrows: up, down, equal (to represent "do more of, do less of, keep the same")
  3. Everyone quietly reflects on the sprint and writes their thoughts on sticky notes
  4. They then stick the notes by the icon that fits the most, happy, sad, keep the same, etc
  5. We all then gather round and look at the notes, taking it in to find common themes
  6. The notes are then grouped into rough themes
  7. Actions are derived from the themes and (sometimes!) assigned an owner
  8. We all wander back to our desks, somewhat satisfied that things will change in the next sprint
  9. Outcomes are documented on the wiki with photos of the whiteboards

On one hand, I have to commend the team for sticking with the retrospective process, sprint after sprint, rather than abandoning it, which is what a lot of teams tend to do. Retros can be the first thing to go in Agile teams, as they can feel like a waste of time, especially if no actions come out of them.

On the other hand, we let the process get stale to the point where it seemed like a robotic action to go through every other week.

It was time to shake things up and do the retros a little differently. We decided to learn some tricks from another team, and try part of their retro method.

In this exercise, you go around the room and everyone states:
  1. How they rated the sprint on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being best
  2. List 3 words that describe the sprint for you

Everyone rates and describes the sprint

In this exercise, everyone takes a marker and makes a graph of their happiness throughout the sprint. It allows you to see where blockers had an impact on team morale or where one person is feeling particularly frustrated by something.
A visualisation of team happiness

We then finished the session with the exercise to understand common themes:

Uncovering common themes

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