June 22, 2016

Mixing Up Retrospectives

Mixing Up Retrospectives

Repetition causes boredom. I'm sure we have all experienced this at some point in our lives. We continue to do the same thing over and over again that our minds go on auto-pilot and at the end of the day we stop providing any value. In this post I would like to provide some ideas on how you can mix things up in your retrospectives in order to keep them fresh and to prevent people from becoming tired with the same old process. This gives you the opportunity to see different issues that people are facing, that wouldn't come up in a normal retrospective.

Stop, Start & Continue

Instead of asking the usual "What worked?", "What didn't work?" & "What confuses us?", you could mix things up by asking the team the following three questions.

  • What should we start doing?
  • What should we stop doing?
  • What should we continue doing?

As you can see, they still focus on continuous improvement by tackle it from a different angle. By asking the questions above, you give the rest of the team the opportunity to say what they do/don't like, be it business processes, things the team do or anything else on their mind. You will be surprised that by just asking the questions above, how different the items raised are.

Ahoy There!

Another variation that you can try is to draw an image of a ship with sails, an anchor and a big rock ahead of it, on a whiteboard. You then tell your team that the ship represents them and the anchor represents things that are holding them back. The wind in sails are things that push them forward and the rock is representative of any dangers that are ahead.

You then ask each team member to write down their thoughts on sticky notes and place them on the appropriate sections on the whiteboard. Once this is done, you go quickly through them and remove any duplicate items after which you give everyone 3 votes and ask them to tick 3 notes which they would like discuss further. After this process has completed, you order the sticky notes from most ticks to least and discuss them in further detail.


At the end of a retrospective is to ask the team members to think of someone outside the team, who was really helpful to them. Once a person has been identified, together as a team, you write up an email praising them for the help and the benefit it brought to the team. Try to use one of the Feedback techniques that were discussed in previous posts. You then send the email to their manager and CC the person. You will be surprised how far this goes and how much it helps build relationships.

Different Facilitator

By bringing in a facilitator from a different team, not only may you pick up different & better ways of doing things, but it will be something "new" to the team as well. You can also allow someone within the team to lead a session. This not only helps reduce the risk, as should you not be there, someone else can run the session but it also gives others a chance to learn.

In your next retrospective, choose one of the above items and try it out. If it doesn't work, then iterate on it or trying something completely new. At the end of the day you need to find what works for your team.

Until next time...keep learning!