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Why constrain your retrospectives?

October 22, 2014 Leave a comment

Retrospectives are a wonderful tool for continued improvement and learning.  Yet, we often don’t retrospect on our retros!  I have often found that the grouping of topics is constrained by the format of the retro.  This week I tried an experiment to remove that constraint and was pleased with the results.

Imagine a team with mixed software delivery beliefs.  Bob loves to pair, yet Rob wants to work on his own.  Bob, and a few others put stickies up in the positive section.  Rob, and others, put stickies up in the improve section.  The team dot votes, and though the two pairing groups each have a lot of dots, neither is the largest.  The team discusses a different topic and the conflicting opinions on pairing don’t get discussed.

What if we Bob and Rob’s team had removed the categories before grouping? They would have had a mixed bag of stickies on pairing grouped together, but when they dot voted, all the pairing votes would have been together.  The team then would have gone on to discuss an issue that was causing tension within the team, and hopefully identified some actions that could improve the situation.

In summary, categories such as anchors/engines or happy/sad/confused are great tools to help the team generate insight.  Once the insight is there, they have served their purpose.  We need to let them go as we move to the next phase of the retro.

Categories: retrospectives Tags: ,