Scrum retrospective - Which format to choose for teams with problems?
Project
5
 min read
November 29, 2021

Scrum retrospective - Which format to choose for teams with problems?

Veronika Martišková
Veronika Martišková
Project Manager

Today I bring you the second part dedicated to the format of the retrospective. Retrospective helps (not only) project managers get information from the team and move it forward. This time we will look at retrospective formats that are suitable for teams that may not work as intended.

In previous articles, we imagined what scrum retrospective is, anti-patterns and retrospective formats for well-cooperating teams, which are among the relatively traditional techniques for making a meeting. Today let’s look at less traditional methodologies.

New team or teams with bigger turnaround

The following types of retrospectives are especially for teams where we feel some obstacles, but we may not know where they are. Alternatively, it's for members which feel that it harder for them to talk about problems.

Peaks and Valleys Timeline

This type of retrospective simply visualizes "ups and downs" thanks to a parallel with the hills and valleys and a clearly marked timeline. It is a very suitable technique for larger groups of people and more ideas that are not lost, but are clearly visible. This activity could also prove successful for teams that we want encourage to greater openness or conversations, and we can also incorporate a "how I felt" scale into it.

Activity

  • At the bottom of the canvas, draw a horizontal arrow representing the timeline.
  • Define the beginning and end of the timeline. Choose the vertical axis. For example, the gradient of happiness, where up is the happiest and bottom is the saddest.
  • Ask individuals to draw their "Peaks and Valleys" timeline: Starting at the beginning of the timeline and sticking to the canvas or board all the time. They should do so by drawing a line and speaking at the same time. Invite other participants to draw their timeline (one at a time). Consider using a different color or line pattern.
  • Discuss the result

Each one meets all

This is a retrospective format used mainly for team members to get to know each other first. The goal is to create an environment where individuals feel comfortable giving personal feedback to others they may not have even met in person. It is a technique taken from "speed dating". It is an ideal format for personal retrospectives, but we can also modify it for remote teams

Activity

Create a small, inner circle and a large, outer circle. Each one gives feedback to the other, so you need to make sure that you choose the right strategy. Set the timer to, for example, 1 minute per person

Story of a ...story

In this retrospective, we try to improve the process by analyzing individual parts (ie stories). We can use User Stories straight from Jira here, but we can also replace the second word "story" with anything that fits us in context, such as Story of a (... project, team, order, bug ..). At the same time focus only one item, which pushes the team to be concrete and focus on the specific thing we want to solve.

Activity

  • Select a specific item (project, team, ...) and describe it + write it in the upper left corner of the board.
  • Together with the team, write down the main events that occurred during the duration (eg in the project from the beginning to the end of the sprint).
  • Write down things you want to repeat that should be avoided, or things that should not be done, each in a different color.
  • Discuss

Retrospectives visualizing problems

The following retrospectives visualize the problems and focus directly on them, or they are looking for a way out of them. They are designed so that the team can better identify and realize that even though we are facing a problem, there is room to solve it.

Speed Car - Abbys

This kind of retrospective is more of a forward-thinking exercise that shows risks. We use it when we need to look around but also point out what awaits us.

Activity

  • Draw the following picture on a whiteboard or flipchart.
  • Ask participants to share their comments on each of the backspace areas: "Let's start by looking back." - ask the team to write their observations and place them in the following two areas on the left side of the picture: the engine and the parachute.
  • Looking back - the engine: what moves us forward? Are you forcing us to move fast?
  • Looking back - parachute: what was holding us back?
  • Ask the participants to share their comments and think about the future. "Now let's look to the near future." Ask the team to write their notes and place them in the following two areas on the right side of the picture: the abyss and the bridge. Looking to the future - the abyss: what are the risks ahead?
  • What could get us out of the way - the future - a bridge: what can we build to overcome these challenges? What will we do to bridge the gap?
  • Group observations and discuss

Climber

This retrospective shows the sprint and the project as a situation similar to a long mountain hike / rock climbing. There are obstacles and risks. Just as when climbing, there are risks that can slow down the group when moving to the top of the mountain, so it in sprint.

Activity:

  • Draw a picture of a climber or mountain hiker for your team. You can also draw four columns for things a tourist might need: ropes (activators), boulders (obstacles), weather (mood and things the team doesn't control), and first aid (help needed).
  • Explain to the team that tourism is a metaphor retrospective. Ask the team to consider the obstacles that prevent it from achieving its goals (peak). Ask people to consider risks that may be beyond the control of the team, such as bad weather in the example of rock climbing. What things help the team "shrink" the mountain
  • Then join notes that are similar

Known issues

This kind of retrospective deals directly with the problem. It is used in teams where we know the problems they face and want to talk about solutions. This activity is very effective in situations where we want to literally save the project.

Activity:

  • Divide participants into groups of two or three people (but it also works on an individual basis)
  • Ask each group to write down the problems they face. Group the problems and read them to the whole group.
  • Ask everyone to think about solving the problems, write them on sticky notes (different color than problems) and place them next to the problems.
  • Start a discussion and rather action items

Error conversation

This retrospective helps the team identify errors, understand their nature and have a productive conversation about them. This is especially useful for teams that are struggling with many issues over a period of time. There are two possible types of decision errors: Error of Commission and Error of Ommission.

Activity:

  • Start by asking everyone to list individually all the errors that have occurred in a given period.
  • Draw and explain a table with two columns for two types of errors:
  • Error of Commission: are errors that have occurred as a result of doing something that should not do (eg he did a task by mistake that was not important and because of it we did not manage other things ..)
  • Error of Ommistion: there are errors that occurred due to not doing something that was to be done (eg someone completely missed their task)
  • Ask individuals to share only one error so far and place it in the appropriate column.
  • Talk about the error briefly. Ask if anyone else has a similar opinion / error and group these comments according to your interests by adding similar comments. Go to other errors until you have exhausted all errors.
  • Write down action items

Dealing with failure

This type of retrospective is based on the FMEA principle, a tool used for systematic problem analysis and remedy identification. However, it can be a challenging activity where we focus on only one specific problem / failure and what the team should do to manage these consequences, work on corrective actions and verify their outcome.

Activity:

  • Explain the problem / error to be analyzed.
  • Divide the table into the following four areas: analysis, evaluation, action, verification.

Analysis: What is our failure / problem / error? What led to this?

Evaluation: What are the consequences of this failure? What is the severity? What is the probability that this will happen again

Action: What are the corrective and preventive measures (so that it does not happen again)

Verification: How can we verify their result with regard to the mentioned actions?

  • Divide the team into smaller groups (two or three people if possible).
  • For each of the four areas, give them a few minutes to take notes, followed by a few minutes for the group conversation.

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