Mixing things up by adding some colour to your retrospectives

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I’m a big fan of SCRUM / AGILE / insert other name that helps me actually get on doing my job and be able to get it done more efficiently without being tied up in titles, roles and rank. I’ve always like the retrospectives in the sprints I’ve done. I find it a great way for everyone to reflect on the awesome stuff they did, what things they tried that didn’t work so great and to really decide as a team what you want to improve/change for next time. It’s a great way to air the dirty laundry and start with a clean slate. The problem I’ve often encountered is these meetings can get quite boring after awhile if you do them the same way and ask the exact same questions each time. Inevitably, people fall into roles of being quiet while the more dominant get more airtime.

Changing up the retrospective to have different formats can be a great way to bring out the voice of different types of people by tapping into different talents and comfort zones. I also find it’s a great way to get people talking about what happened in a different way and makes them think of things that they wouldn’t have come up with with the tried and true method.

I’d previously taught the team how to run the “emotional” kind of retro, where they plot their happy/sadness on a graph over the duration from the sprint. We got some good results from that but had a few comments about how talking about their feelings was just weird and was waiting for the group hug at the end Smile

I’ve wanted to mix things up a bit last week, so decided to bring some colour into the retrospective by running an artistic retro. I’ve done this type before starting with a blank piece of paper and usually find it really hard (unless the team is quite artistic and in to the whole idea) to get going and get good results from it. I think I get much better participation and results if you give the team a theme/background picture to start with. I’ve seen a few different ideas such as a speedboat, a race track etc. but I think a good one to start with is the sail boat. The abstraction of putting things on the anchors for things that slowed you down, things on the sails that made you go quicker, obstacles in the water for things you had to overcome, canons etc on the bow for battles you had to fight really help people start with the drawing process.


Above is the result of my experiment on the team on our latest retrospective. At first I took the black pen away to force some colour but they quickly got right into it so I quickly gave it back as it wasn’t an issue. I’ve taken off all the postits that described what each of part of the drawing represented and how we thought about fixing or changing things but I think you can still see the variety of ideas that came through.

Love to hear any ideas on base images to start the artistic retro out with if you have them – leave me a comment below.


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