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Expert Hot Seat
In our first episode, we look at circles, soup, maps, and even life post-mortem. 😨
The Hot Seat Experts share their favorite retrospective activity, including ways to improve follow-though, increase engagement, and stop worrying about what is beyond the team’s control. We even hear a few that our leaders have come up with themselves! 💥
Circles and Soup by Diana Larsen.
My favorite retrospective activity is one that not a lot of people use. It's called Circle of Questions. And it's from Esther's and I book, Agile Retrospectives. And it is one in which a group asks and answers each other questions in around Robin kind of format and listens to the answers other people are giving. That's the important bit. And and over time, you see that group coalesce on their sort of group consensus answer. And it's really very cool. And it gives the introverts time to think. And the extroverts time to talk. And it's a nicely balanced activity.
All the activity I love is called Paradox Intervention, and it's not really used much. It is asking people what they can imagine doing to make things worse. And by making things worse, they often get a feel that they can make a difference at all. And so they can also make it better. But first, thinking about making it worse, soften things up and opens up people. And it's also funny to think about the set. Right and therefore, it provides more possibilities for people.
The retrospective activity that I love the most. And I wish everybody used it was the Futurespective without reserve. In every single place that I worked, there was an opportunity to do a Futurespective and the outcomes were much better than a standard retrospective because the format is a little bit different. And so the future perspective, you talk about the future as being a real thing. You're in the future. You present a happy picture. When is it? Why are we here? Maybe we're celebrating and something special. And so what is it exactly about this feature that makes it compelling for people? I did this at places like Universal Studios and Nielsen and Kopans and tenable to talk about what might be stopping us from achieving this awesome happy future, doing the happy future. What went well, what challenges do we overcome. And what actions and improvements did we apply first? And so then you vote on those. And it's without a doubt, the best retrospective format that I've come across.
Yeah so there's so many amazing facilitation techniques out there. It's hard to pick just one, but if I had to, it would probably be in the deciding what to do phase in order to help people get to follow through more effectively and actually achieve change from the retrospectives. So this technique follows this pattern of follow the energy, which I like to help teams use if they're struggling with follow through. And the technique is called Effort and Impact and Energy Mapping. So the idea of this is that at the end of the retrospective, you're trying to figure out what action items should you use to take it forward into your sprint. You ask people to judge how much effort is it going to take to complete this action item? They rank them. You ask people how much impact would this action item have if you were to do it? You rank them, but then finally, you get to energy. And you ask people how much energy do you actually have to work on this action item? And if it's low, even if the impact is high, I probably shouldn't do it because the energy in the room isn't there to actually complete the follow through. So effort impact energy mapping gets you a sense of which action item you should take for it into your screen.
So our favorite retrospective activity is not what would be considered a traditional retrospective activity. We use the lean coffee functionality of Retrium to do coordination and to essentially allow the conversation to automatically be driven to the things that are of the most interest to the most people in the room. And it's kind of interesting because I introduced this to one of the executives here, and the first time he did it, he was like, what is this? What is this? This is kind of unsettling because he was used to dictating the agenda for the meetings, his staff meetings. And we tried this one time. And he and none of his things got picked to get talked about during [the meeting]. And it was like not till like the fourth in coffee. We got to when he got one of his things picked and everyone got 5 votes and his had five votes. So we basically said, oh, the only way you got to pick this, I put it all five votes, I do one thing. And he gets in bright red because that's actually what happened. So anyway, the point is, is that allowing the audience, the participants drive the content gives you fundamentally different. Outcomes from if you just let some leader drive.
I'm a big fan of liberating structures. I use them extensively and of course, I do. So for retrospectives. Otherwise, I mean, go to tasty cupcake's or retro mods so you will find tons of exercises of all kinds, you know, starting with playing with story cubes to ending up with a few bottles of beer and chips on the table works. One way or another.
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