Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Agile Retrospective Example: One Word and 4Ls

We had been doing your typical What went well/What didn't go well exercise and decided to change it up to hopefully gain some fresh ideas. We had a large team, roughly 20 people. I facilitated a retrospective and decided to change things up a bit and did 2 exercises: One word and the 4L's.

"Ice Breaker" - One Word (~10 min)

First exercise was to have everyone describe the sprint using one word. They were instructed that they didn't have to explain or expound on the word but the word could not be repeated. Everyone had to participate. As words were being shouted out, I would write them on the whiteboard. As it became quieter, I would call out for words from people who hadn't participated yet. This encourages the quieter ones to speak up early in the meeting and therefore have a greater chance of contributing later on now that they have "skin in the game".

"Main Event" (~50 min) - 4 L's

We called the categories:
  • Liked - things that went well during the sprint and we should continue to do 
  • Learned - things that we learned mid-sprint or things that didn't go well but we've learned from them 
  • Loathed - things that didn't go well 
  • Longs For - things that doesn't currently happen but would be "ideal". This topic is an exploration of ideas that could make the team better. Think no constraints. If the team could have anything they wanted, what would they ask for? 
  50 minutes

  Post-it notes, flip chart paper

  1. Everyone filled out post-it notes that pertained to each of the 4 categories (10 min)
  2. People placed them on one of the four flip chart pieces of paper (5 min)
  3. Assign people to one of the four groups to discuss (10 min)
  4. Discuss each topic, as an entire group, to glean ideas/action items (5 min/group - 20 min) 
  5. Review action items (5 min) 

Retrospective on the Retrospective: 

We had our retrospective in the team space. Often times, people would still be on their computers, working, during retrospective. We needed something to get them more engaged. The ice breaker was new we had done and it went well. Encouraging people to get engaged early on and getting the "quiet" ones to participate with one word was a simple exercise. These people, I noticed, were participating in the 4L discussion more than I had seen them contribute in the past. It's amazing what one word feedback will give you! After a few words, you would get a feel for how the sprint went, in just a few short minutes.

In order to encourage more engaging participation, I placed the four pieces of flip chart paper in the four corners of the room and instructed people to stand and discuss their topic. While they discussed, I walked around, checking in, and asked probing questions such as "How can we change this for next sprint?" or "This worked well during this sprint, how do we keep this going?". We did a divide and conquer. The goal of each group was to come up with the top 1 or 2 topics to discuss with the group as a whole and glean action items.

For time's sake, I had pre-determined groups of people to talk about certain categories. While this worked well, some people didn't like the topic they were assigned to. Ideally, if the retrospective were longer, I'd take each team spend some amount of time on each topic. That would take longer than an hour so we limited it to one topic per team.

We did get some valuable feedback from this retrospective. I believe, in part, because we changed up the way we gathered it. Too often, I think our retrospectives become too routine and, thereby, diluting the valuable feedback on how to improve. By keeping retrospectives fresh, it will encourage fresh ideas on how the team can improve.

Happy retrospecting!