This is part two of my Retrospectives series.
- Set the Stage
- Gather Information/Generate Insight(the current blog post)
- Take Action
This is possibly the most diverse step in the retrospective. There’re so many different ways to gather information. The classic one is the four questions:
- What went well?
- What didn’t go so well?
- What have I learned?
- What still puzzles me?
Members write their answers on individual sticky notes and post them on a board. This is just one of the many ways of gathering information. The purpose of this stage is to guide people’s thinking, so they can generate focused topics to discuss/evaluate.
It is important to consider the setup stage for gathering information. For instance, if the team is upset during the setup stage, then it might make sense to gather information only on what went well. This way, the team can see that they’re capable of success. It is difficult to come up with methods on gathering information on the spot, so I would suggest building a mental toolbox of retrospective ideas that you can draw from as necessary. At the bottom of this post, I will include some resources on how to gather information.
Generate insight is dependent on the previous stage – gather information. Once you know what has happened, you can begin to reflect on those things. A great way of generating insights is Lean Coffee. If you have post-it notes representing topics, individuals can vote for a topic by putting a dot on the post-it note they wish to discuss. Members are generally given 3 or 4 dots to use. The team will then discuss the post-it notes in descending order, starting with the most voted on post-it. The facilitator will time each topic discussion by setting a timer to around 4 minutes. Once the timer goes off, individuals may vote on whether or not they want to continue discussing using a thumbs-up/thumbs-down system.
Lean Coffee is an efficient method for generating insights; however, there’re issues to consider. It’s possible that members may avoid voting on topics that should be discussed or individuals may vote on topics that have little impact. Also, individuals may discuss topics for far longer than necessary, not giving time to important issues. The facilitator could mitigate this by time-boxing discussions, so the entire retro isn’t spent on one topic. The retro leader could also prioritize certain topics over others, such as discussing what didn’t go well first over what went well. I encourage you to explore this balance between leading and giving individuals choices.
Gathering info and generating insights should make up the bulk of the retrospective. There is no perfect retrospective template. The best the retro leader can do is be observant while facilitating and be aware of different retrospective ideas. Here are some resources to help you lead better retrospectives:
- Getting Value Out of Agile Retrospectives: A Toolbox of Retrospective Exercises by Ben Linders & Luis Goncalves