Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Agile - Retrospectives - 3 methods

Here is a summary of the 3 styles of retrospectives that you could use to make your retrospectives interesting.
This info is from the "Agile Workshop: Continuous Improvement Through Retrospectives"; session conducted on Dec 15th Wednesday by Sreekanth Tadipatri.

Method 1: Start-Stop-Continue

  • Create 3 columns titled Start, Stop and Continue
  • Have team members jot down what they would like to stop doing, start doing, and continue doing on 3 different colored Post-Its
  • Paste the different colored post-its in the 3 columns

A fun exercise and you've got some learnings too. Remember to pick up only one or two ideas to implement in the next iteration to avoid being overwhelmed.
Method 2: Team as a Boat

  • On a chart draw a boat at the center which signifies the team
  • Include an Anchor - to signify those risks that weigh the team down, work could come to a standstill if this risk comes to pass. For example:
    • Dependent user story not delivered in time
    • Product Owner not available for clarification
  • Include a Rock - to signify those risks which if they materialize could be a disaster. These could be items that are usually outside the control of the team and require management intervention. However there is a good chance that these risks may not materialize. For example: 
    • Internet downtime
    • High attrition
    • System failure
  • Include positive winds - to signify those things that are working well for the team; are the teams strengths that we need to build and nurture
  • Include the headwinds - to signify the forces that cause the team to go off course or slow down. For example: 
    • Team member not performing to expectation, 
    • Team members switching tasks
  • Have the team think about these aspects, and paste them around the objects

And you have feedback to inspect and adapt

Method 3: Happy-Sad-Insight-Challenges

  • Create 4 quadrants
  • Quadrant 1 - Happy smiley - for those things that made the team happy
  • Quadrant 2 - Sad smiley - for those things that made the team unhappy
  • Quadrant 3 - Bulb - for those incidents that were insightful
  • Quadrant 4 - Question mark - for those challenging incidents

Have the team reflect upon these aspects and paste their thoughts and you are on your way to a reflective journey.


  1. Merlyn, These are all good retrospective activities; however, you may not get the results you want if you use them as stand-alone retrospectives. For example, Start-Stop-Continue gives much better information to the team if you do another activity first to ensure that all team members are working from the same set of data (e.g., timeline, storytelling, or FRIM). Review the metric data and ask about team members' experiences during the iteration, before moving on to SSC or SpeedBoat (from the Innovation Games book) or another activity that encourages team members to make meaning of the data. And follow up with a group decision process to determine which continuous improvement actions everyone agrees to for the next iteration.
    Good luck! Diana

  2. Hi, Merlyn -

    As Diana said, these are all useful activities. You might get more insight from them (and ultimately more effective actions) if you put them in a framework that will help the team think learn and decide.

    You can find the basics of the framework use for most of the retrospectives I do here: