I continually look for new ways to gather data in iteration retrospectives. My goal is to find activities that encourage team members to think deeply about the story of their project while keeping an eye on the time budget. Timelines are a great tool for data gathering, yet they may take longer than many teams can afford in a 60-90 minute retrospective. The standard “what worked well/what shall we do differently” is short, but really takes the team directly into analysis, bypassing data gathering. Here’s an idea for a new activity I call FRIM (FRequency/IMpact).

In FRIM, the team writes 3x3 sticky notes about the events, impediments, and boons* of the iteration. (If you want to get fancy, you could use different color sticky notes for events, impediments, and boons.) Team members write sticky notes to include as many events, impediments and boons as they can remember. They may work individually or in pairs or triads if you have a larger team.

The retrospective leader draws a large 6x6 grid on the whiteboard or a flip chart-papered wall. Team members post their sticky notes on the grid according to the frequency of the event and its impact on the team.

Impact (vertical dimension)

5 = Maximum Impact

4 = Significant Impact

3 = Moderate Impact

2 = Some Impact

1 = Little Impact

0 = No Impact

Let each team member devise his or her own concept of relative impact, or, if time allows, hold a brief team discussion to define “maximum impact” vs. “moderate” or “little”.

Frequency (horizontal dimension)

5 = More than daily

4 = Daily

3 = Every 2-3 days

2 = 1 or 2 times in a Iteration

1 = Once or fewer times in a Iteration

0 = 2 or 3 times a Release/Rarely

When all the notes have been posted, review the overall story. Start by reading the notes in the top, right-hand cell first (5I-5F), then work across and down, focusing on impact first (5I-4F, 5I-3F, 5I-2F…) and frequency second (4I-5F. 4I-4F, 4I-3F…). As a group, discuss commonalities or patterns. Refer to the grid as you shift into a discussion of the insights gained by telling the story of the iteration.

* Boon: a thing that is helpful or beneficial, a favorable occurrence. I don’t get to use the word “boon” often enough.