Retrospective from the movies

All the scrum ceremonies are designed to implement most of Agile values and principles. However, only the retrospective ceremony is specifically mentioned as a principle in the agile manifesto.

Principle number 12: “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly”.

In order to keep the retrospective valuable, it requires from the facilitator (usually the scrum master) to invest time in order to prepare himself or herself for the next retro. The preparation includes observing and taking notes during the iteration, learning new activities to spark ideas and encourage participates involvement, and creativity to keep the retrospective interesting and fun.

Recently, a scrum master of a team, within one of my customers I worked with during the last 3 months, had very good, valuable, and creative retrospective. I want to share this retrospective plan with you – it might help you prepare your next retrospective.

Some background: the team is within the “norming”stage. It has begun to be effective, and focusing on cooperation.

The scrum master shared with me that he feels that on one story the team preforms like in the movie “The Avengers”-  the team is collaborating together, and like a super heroes, they are getting the work done. However, on another story he feels the team performs like in the movie “The never-ending story” – it is being dragged from one iteration to another. This is how we come to the idea of retrospective from the movies.

This retrospective has 3 main goals – Find out:

  • What is done well in the “The Avengers” stories?
  • What is done poorly in the “The never-ending story”?
  • What will be done differently in the next iteration?

Opening (4 mins): Reminder – The wrong way of doing a retrospective

The facilitator welcomed the people in the room and shared the agenda with the time boxing for the meeting. Then he showed them the following movie, as a reminder of what should not happen in retrospective. Now, after everyone lough and forgot about their work they left behind, we can continue with the rest of the meeting. The wrong way to do agile retrospective

Gather data (15 mins) – Mix & Match (Stories & Movies)

The facilitator showed the team two lists: one of the stories they have worked on during the iteration, the other list is about movies. Then he asked the team to decide for each story which movie describes it the best. In the picture below you can see the results (in order to maintain secrecy – I changed the names of the stories).

From the picture you can understand how the team felt in each story. For example:

  • Story 1, was the fastest story ever, and felt like the shortest movie ever.
  • Story 2, which  was estimated at 21 story points, started as the series “X-files”, the uncertainty was huge, however, as the iteration progress, more and more team members joined this task, and they work together as an “A team”.
  • Story 3, it included support for customers, and hence, felt like survival, jump from one issue to another issue, and overall firefighting. They chose the Israeli version of Survival (the reality show).
  • Story 4 is managed only by one team member like in the movie “Waterworld” which was a one man show.
  • Story 6 & 7 – felt like the movie “Lord of Rings”, it started as a very interesting story, but in the middle it became boring.

Generate insights (5 min)

Following the mix & match discussion, the facilitator requested to perform a dot voting to determine what were the most interesting stories to discuss and generate action items for the next iteration – 2 stories were selected.

Decide what to do (15 mins) – Pair discussion

The facilitator gave each pair a memo note and a Sharpie pen, and asked them to discuss and write down action items either to keep doing in order to have more stories that feels like “The Avengers” or either action item to start / stop doing in order prevent from from stories to become “The never-ending story”. Then all the memo notes were displayed on the white board. The team were asked to do silent prioritization to the list, and the 2 action items with the highest priority were selected.
For those not familiar with silent prioritization (the same practice can be used for grouping and sorting): each team member in his turn can move one memo note to put on the priority list or to switch between two notes inside the prioritize list. The process continues till all team members agrees with the outcome. Why is it called silent prioritizing? Because during the process, nobody is allowed to speak 🙂

Closing (10 mins) – Review and grade past retrospective action items

To wrap up and close the meeting, The facilitator showed the team a table with all the generated action items from the past two months, and the team graded each item based on how it was productive and accomplished (maybe he will use it as data for the next retrospective).

This is just one idea for a retrospective. In our resource page “Reading list for scrum masters” you can find more useful information and links to other ideas for the retrospective.

Good Luck!

Image by Igor Ovsyannykov from Pixabay 

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