Have you ever noticed somebody in a retrospective having trouble remembering what happened in a sprint or iteration? It can be hard to remember even 2 weeks back.
The liberating structure Spiral Journal, which is currently in development, is surprisingly effective in sharpen the focus of a team retrospective. In this post I will describe the process and share my reflections.
- State the purpose of the activity; “Sharpen observational skills, and capture insight as action unfolds”
- Ask the participants to divide a piece of paper in 4, by either folding twice or drawing 2 lines.
- Guide participants to draw a spiral from the center, as tightly as possible, and in silence.
- After few minutes, ask 4 questions one by one, and allow participants time to write their answer in to the specified square.
- Ask participants to share their answers, if they want.
Reflections and observations
The questions can basically be anything, but the idea is that they should guide participants in a direction you find appropriate, for the following activity. I wanted my team to “tune-in” to what happened in the sprint, using these questions
- Top-left: One impression of the last sprint?
- Top-right: One thing I learned during the last sprint
- Bottom-left: Name a problem that the team has, but we haven’t found the solution
- Bottom right: What is the most important thing that the team discusses in today’s retro
For some, drawing a spiral on a piece paper, can be out of their comfort zone. Others might find it hard to see the purpose. Both might result in talking or even questioning the activity. Yet this exercise is so simple, that is worth giving a shot. What worked for me, when i faced resistance like this was being firm that the participants stayed silent during the activity. I told them that we would debrief afterwards and asked them to play along for now. As debrief I asked, other team members than the the most resistant one “What did you get out of this exercise?”. The answers made it so clear to everyone in the room why we did this activity, and i didn’t have to fill in a word my self. That was the moment I realised how powerful this structure is.
The feedback from the teams were: “Drawing made me forget things around me and got me in the zone”. “Reflecting on the question helped me remember what happened in the sprint, something I normally find hard”. “We spent 20% of the time, to figure out what to talk about in the retro, and 80% to discuss the actual topic”.
I highly recommend to try this out! Let me know how it goes!