Another way to learn about retrospectives

Unlike most of my blog posts, this one is not an opinion or some deeper insight or analysis.
It is a description of the result of an evolution of a workshop Ilan Kirschenbaum and i developed that is called a “Retrospective retreat”
The Retrospective retreat is a workshop that is very similar to code\coach retreat in which it is targeted at creating deliberate learning through repetitive practicing  of the Retrospective.

The structure:

The structure of the retreat is as follows:

  1. Explain the structure of the day + some logistics.
  2. Group people in teams.
  3. Quickly covering the theory behind retrospective.
  4. Explain the basics of the <activity> to be used.
  5. The iteration:
    1. Share a specific retrospective design.
    2. Perform the activity.
    3. Perform the retrospective.
    4. Reflect on the retrospective.
  6. Until time runs out, go to step <n>.
  7. Reflect on the day and share A-HA moments.
  8. collect feedback

I believe this is quite straight forward and simple to understand.
There are two things that i find more interesting to dig deeper into:

  1. The retrospective designs of choice.
  2. The activity of choice.

The retrospective design

For a full day workshop we usually have enough time to run 5 cycles, each cycle is about 1 hour with the following structure:

  • 15 minutes explaining the design.
  • 5-8 minutes of running the activity (the iteration)
  • 20 minutes of performing a retrospective.
  • 10 minutes of reflection
  • 10 minutes for questions.

What we do is to start with a simple retrospective design and increase level of complexity from one iteration to the other, for example: A day could start with a retrospective composed of
If we were a vehicle, starfish, value\cost chart, Low hanging fruit, ROTI.
The structure can be seen in details here :

And as the day continue we increase difficulty by introducing less farmiliar and more complex design such as:
Round of admiration, Speed boat, Five Whys, Retro darts
The structure can be seen in details here :

The activity

The activity is very important, since it provides the base of practicing the retrospective.
It needs to be interesting enough to be able to repeat 5 times and still be able to learn and improve, it needs to have similar dynamic to what you would expect to see in developing products.
When we started we invented a game called “Lego-Goola” which is a challange to have a marble travel across the largest distance, it was nice but not enough similarity to product development.
We then used a game called “snowflake factory” which worked quite well as it was engaging and fun and had enough dynamics that are similar to product development.
And recently i was requested by a customer to facilitate a Retrospective retreat, and they requested not to use the snowflakes game, the game i used is described below:

Retrospective retreat game – Lego Farm

The Lego farm is inspired by a game from Liz Keogh –
The goal of the game is to create the highest value farm by following the guidelines (See link at the end)
Through the game, the teams need to purchase supplies, design, make decisions, sell, and perform other actions in order to build their farm.
Here is a short slideset to explain the game.

I find the retrospective retreat fun and inspiring and do not hesitate to contact us to contact us to learn more .

Would love to hear your comments.
May the force be with you,
Elad Sofer (@eladsof on twitter)

*Images in this post are from a workshop done in CyberArk and were approved for publication.

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