Iterative Retrospective Experimentation

I really enjoy and get a lot of value out of experimentation at work. I think it’s a great way to unleash creativity, try new ideas, continuously improve, have fun, see what works/doesn’t work, etc. One team that I coach has been experimenting and iterating on a retro idea for weeks. This team is small (2-3 devs) and works in one week sprints, so things move quickly. I had the idea to try daily retros. Here is how the iterating went…

Iteration 1: At 4pm each day, we huddled in our team pod and quickly (~5 mins) discussed what went well and what could be improved. This was beneficial because the day was still fresh in memory. Sometimes it can be hard to remember what happened 4, 5 or 10 days ago. We discussed and captured a couple of action items.

Iteration 2: At 4pm each day, we huddled in our team pod and each person wrote on sticky notes – thoughts about what went well and what could be improved – and dropped the notes into a box. After each person had dumped their thoughts into the box, the retro was over (again, ~5 mins). At the end of the week, we gathered to open the box, and there was a lot of excitement and anticipation – kind of like opening a gift. We all helped group the stickies on the wall, then discussed them and captured some actions items. This retro was fun and full of energy. The team really liked it.

Iteration 3: This iteration was very similar to the second iteration, except I had upgraded from a cardboard box to a glass jar (per a team member request) and we used different colored stickies for each day (red for Monday, orange for Tuesday, etc). Then, on Friday, when we opened the box, we created a timeline and grouped the stickies based on day and plus/delta/topic. At this point, we would walk the timeline, discuss and take actions. The team liked this method even more than the last.

Iteration 4: The team liked the third iteration so much, that the fourth iteration was just about the same. The only main difference was that one developer ranked each day (1 – 5 stars), which was interesting to see his ranking with the plus/deltas from the jar. In addition, this developer is quiet, so I asked him to walk the timeline, which is in line with one of his goals of improving his communication skills.

Overall, it was really nice to see an idea quickly go through multiple iterations. It generated excitement and engagement, and even led to more experimentation and other benefits to the team. For now, the team is happy with where we landed and they want to continue this retro style, but I’m sure that before too long, we’ll be trying something new…

What experiments have you tried lately? If none, then what experiments would you like to try out?

2017-02-16T02:51:14+00:00 By |