Every two weeks, at the end of a sprint, we have a retrospective meeting to discuss everything and anything about the past sprint.
The core of each retrospective is a data-gathering activity, to get all team members’ ideas about what went well and what we want to improve. That phase can be quite intense and requires a lot of thought. To get our creative juices flowing, we like to begin our retrospectives with something more fun and frivolous.
My favourite introductory activity is to ask the team: if this sprint was a [x], what kind of [x] would it be?
X can be anything at all, and the more variation the better.
We have pictured the sprint as weather, and the responses included everything from sunshine to thunderstorms.
We have pictured the sprint as a place, and the answers ranged from “a train carriage” to “Bangladesh in a monsoon”. We have described the sprint as a vehicle, as a colour, as a fruit, and so on.
If at all possible, I ask the team to present their answer as a drawing rather than a word. The initial reaction is always laughter mixed with lots of groans: as developers we feel much more comfortable with writing words than with drawing pictures.
However, as soon as we all get past that initial resistance, the results are always awesome. Perhaps not artistically t…hough 🙂 The discussion that these drawings kick off is always really enlightening, and each team member’s opinion gets so much more depth and life.
Telling the team that you saw lots of great co-operation and smooth hand-offs happening is just words: positive but a bit dry and not so memorable. Symbolise it with an ant and describe your impression of the team as a colony of busy ants co-operating with each other, and you can bet that the team will really feel it and remember it.
After this exercise we are usually full of energy and ready to start the serious work of writing down our thoughts in more detail.
Here are our drawings from the latest retrospective: one ant, one tortoise, two octopuses (one of them tangled up), one horse and one dog chasing its own tail.