Lean Coffee, The Worst We Can Do, and Pitching Our Actions

Posted: September 12, 2014 in Scrum, Team
Tags: , ,

Retro1I have a team that is a funny space in the project (winding down development, winding up environment related activities – it’s a very technical piece) and, as the team is also changing after the end of the project, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find things that are obvious areas to focus on medium- to long-term. For this reason, I try to get the team to drive topics as much as possible (as they’re on the front-line), however the culture of retrospectives isn’t very established here yet so that is easier said than done!

Always wanting to find new ways to run retrospectives so that the team does not get bored, I decided to try an agenda from Retr-o-mat, an awesome site for building your own retrospective agenda. The one I eventually decided on was Plan ID-81-51-69-73-45. Herewith follows my comments on how it went 🙂

1. Outcome Expectations (#81) – Everyone states what they want out of the retrospective [10 min]
I picked this one as I’m trying (continuously) to get my team to think about retrospectives and what they’re for. As it turned out, what I thought would be a quick whip around the room, was almost painful, but I did eventually get an outcome from every team member and I believe that the process meant they were in a better space for what was to follow. I’d say this one affected my timing most (I only had 75 minutes to get through the whole retro), especially as we always struggle to get everyone into the room on time.

2. Lean Coffee (#51) – Use the Lean Coffee format for a focused discussion of the top topics [30 min]
I’ve been to sessions before where we used this technique and quite enjoyed it. I brought some rusks along (and gave people the opportunity to get a drink during the topic brain-storming) to help create the mood. I think the layout of the room helped this: I’d moved all the tables to the side and the team sat in an almost-circle in easy-to-wheel office chairs. We didn’t get through all the topics and probably could have done with a little more time, but my observation is that the team touched on some key points plus got to ‘vent’ a little around topics that were bugging people but had never really been discussed. The nice thing about Lean Coffee is that it is up to the group how long they spend on a topic before moving on, which takes some of the pressure off the facilitator!

3. The Worst We Could Do – Explore how to ruin the next sprint for sure [20 min]
I included this one because I thought it was an interesting way to think about things and because we have a major release coming up with a new team, so there may have been things that worried certain people but had not been raised. One could probably run an entire retro around this activity alone.

4. Pitch – Ideas for actions compete for 2 available ‘Will do’-slots [10 min]
A great way to generate team ownership of the actions/outcomes for the session! Watch out for people trying to ‘group’ a number of actions into one though. Be quite strict about them limiting what the focus for the next sprint will be! Also, the actions were not always concrete, so some needed rewording (e.g. we re-worded “improve code quality” to “increase code coverage every time we add new stuff”). I did also put actions that didn’t make the cut below the line so that we didn’t lose them. I review actions every couple of retrospectives so that the team can see which have started, which are still in progress, which are done (celebrate!), and which may no longer be applicable.

We did deviate from the agenda slightly as there was an item the team needed to discuss and sort out in the session (moving the times of ceremonies). My feeling is unfortunately this detracted a bit from the overall impact as when we did our pleased and surprised round, that was front of mind for them. Had I known it would come up, I probably would have dealt with it earlier in the process, but one sometimes does need to adapt in the moment 🙂

Have you used any of the above tools before? Any situations where you found them particularly useful (or not!)?

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