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Collaboration and Communication

What To Do When…There Are Multiple Conversations Happening At Once

Retrium Team

One time, I was facilitating a retrospective and the group was discussing a particularly thorny impediment related to a lack of clarity to user stories during the sprint.

There seemed to be three conversations happening at once: Conversation #1 was about how to interact on a more frequent basis with the Product Owner, Conversation #2 was about the tools the team was using to maintain their user stories, and Conversation #3 was about how much detail the user stories needed on Day One of the sprint.

The problem was not that there were multiple ideas on how to fix the issue. That’s a good thing, and to be encouraged!

The problem was that two people were involved in Conversation #1, three people in Conversation #2, and three people in Conversation #3. It was impossible for the group to learn together.

That’s when you should use tracking to get everyone on the same page about the multiple Conversation Threads. Here’s how it works:

  1. Identify the problem (“I can see there are multiple conversations happening at once”)
  2. Summarize the Conversation Threads (“Some of you are talking about X, while some of you are talking about Y”)
  3. Ask for Validation (“Did I miss anything?” If so, just nod your head and move on.)

Note that the purpose of doing this is not to prioritize the various Conversation Threads. It’s simply to ensure that the group is aware of what’s happening.

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