Experiences with Retrospectives

Recently I’ve found an excellent website on Retrospectives: Retromat, with a very useful booklet as well (which unfortunately is out of print at the moment). I am now using this as my basis for retros all the time!

Retromat assumes you’re using 5 phases in your retro:

  • Set the stage
  • Gather data
  • Generate insight
  • Decide what to do
  • Close the retro

For each phase, the site (and the booklet) contain several practical methods you can use to conduct this phase. The site can even generate a random retrospective plan for you 😉

I will use (and extend) this blog-post to share some of my experiences with these techniques.

For a team that I coach only during their sprint stop/start, I used the following techniques (the #numbers behind the items refer to the numbers of the techniques on the website):

  • ESVP (#1)
  • 4 Ls (#78)
  • Brainwriting (#66)
  • Low Hanging Fruit (#63)
  • Shower of Appreciation (#34)

ESVP is an easy starter. Ask everybody if the what their stance is towards this retro:

  • Explorer – eager to dive in an research what worked
  • Shopper – positive, happy if 1 good thing comes out
  • Vacationer – reluctant, but retros beat regular work
  • Prisoner – only attend because they must

I actually did not expect much interesting to come out. The team I worked with was very motivated. But to my surprise one of the participants indicated he was somewhat Explorer and somewhat Prisoner. Later on, during the retro, it turned out that the whole team felt there was too much work to do, which explained this feedback.

The 4 L’s (what I Loved, Learned, Lacked, Longed for) gave some good feedback on the emotions of the team members during last sprint.

We then moved to Brainwriting, which we all liked very much. We picked the main topic that came out of the 4 L’s, and each team member got 3 minutes to write down their ideas on how to address that topic. Then, the papers were passed on to the next person, who continued on those ideas. After several passes, the paper came back to the original author, often surprised by where their ideas were taken. Each author then picked the best 3 ideas from their paper and wrote them on a post-it.

I then drew a big tree on a flip-chart, and the participants put these on the tree at the ‘right’ height, indicating which was Low Hanging Fruit, and which wasn’t.

As a team we then clustered some ideas, and picked the best one to pick up during the next sprint.

We concluded with the Shower of Appreciation. In turns, each team member did receive only positive feedback on their behaviour in the last sprint. As that team member was sitting with her back towards the other team members, there was not too much tension in this session. I don’t think this technique will work in all teams, some will perceive this as too soft. But here everybody left the retro full of new energy.


About André Heijstek

Rijnlands / Agile verbeteren van software ontwikkeling
This entry was posted in Agile, Scrum and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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