Park Bench

I’ve used “Park Bench” at the end of workshops as a way of reflecting on the day or as a debriefing technique after a training exercise to uncover group discoveries. You may be surprised that I hadn’t thought of it for retrospectives. I was. Luckily, Michael thought of it.


Circles and Soup

Sometimes teams get stuck at the point of “deciding what to do” in retrospectives. Team members may begin to point fingers and describe things that the ubiquitous “they” must do before the team can move forward or make improvements,. This may lead to a team-as-victim, “poor us, we’re stuck” syndrome, or blame and finger-pointing. “It’s their fault we’re in this mess!” Blame kills retrospectives and the perception of persecution stalls any hope of forward motion, so the retrospective leader has to shift this conversation, and fast! Team members also may perceive so much room for improvement they become paralyzed and can’t decide where to start improving their lot.

When victim-talk, blaming or overwhelm surfaces, I reach into my retrospective leaders toolbox and pull out a technique to help teams identify the kinds of action the team can take.


Return on Retrospectives (ROR) = Innovation

In a comment on an article about Pixar in The Economist, Tom Agan from the Nielsen Company, writes:

"At The Nielsen Company we have just completed a study of the major consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies operating in the U.S. and those with standardized post mortems for new products, like Pixar, average almost 100% more revenue from new products compared to those that don't...I think through articles like this and new research that quantifies the impact, we are coming much closer to uncovering the universal truths of innovation."

I'm willing to put up with The Economist (and Pixar)...


Retrospective Short Subjects II

In Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great!, Esther Derby and I include a collection of activities we called, “Short Subjects.”

After Gathering Data, these useful activities provide relatively quick ways to review event, effort, and response data; reflect on the implications of the data; and Generate Insights about team experiences.

Teams Retrospectives

Personal Retrospectives

Agile retrospectives aren’t just for teams or organizations. Individuals (like you and me) also use them as a way of taking stock and choosing how to move forward—reflecting, inspecting, and adapting to the changing conditions in our lives. Chronological milestones serve as a great prompts for a personal retrospective (e.g., year’s-end, birthday, anniversary, solstice, etc.).

We find ourselves at the end of 2009, looking toward 2010 with eager anticipation and/or reluctant anxiety. What a great time to retrospect!

First, plan your retrospective.

Where will you focus? Choose a focus or theme for the retrospective that holds meaning for...

Mr. Squiggle

Nick Oostvogel describes a creative activity to revive boring retrospectives and tell the shared story of the project (Gather Data). He calls it Mr. Squiggle.

Agile Retrospectives

Draw Deborah a Picture

Deborah Hartmann posted a description of an interesting “Gathering Data” activity. She calls it “Draw Me a Picture”. It sounds like it would be fun and potentially quite insightful. I’m looking forward to trying it out soon. Thanks for sharing it, Deb!



In a recent Sticky Minds column, Naomi Karten writes about PMI (Plus/Minus/Interesting), a technique for helping groups think together about many aspects of an issue.


PO's & Retros

Jack Milunsky wrote about the Top Ten Activities of a Product Owner. In reply, a number of folks commented that they didn’t like the idea of a Product Owner attending Sprint Retrospectives.

Agile Retrospectives

Circle of Q's

Doc List writes about one of my favorite activities on his blog, Circle of Questions. I added a few comments there as well.


Values Activity

As the chair of the Agile Alliance board over the last year, I’ve had lots of occasion to think about the effect of group values and principles on work. This pondering led me to invent a new activity for the the “Gather Data” phase of retrospectives.

Instructions for Values Activity:

Have plenty of sticky-notes available. I like the 4”x4” super-sticky kind. Accompany the sticky notes with black, broad-line felt tip marking pens. I like the water-based kind that don’t bleed through the paper, but permanent ones will work too.

Ask team members to pair up or get in...


Collected Quotes

Over the years, I’ve noticed when I have a stronger response to particular phrases, sentences, doggerel, koans, and so forth. I get a thrill when someone can frame an idea simply and powerfully into a pithy statement. I collect those inspiring or clarifying quotes. I find them in many sources and sometimes in unlikely places, though usually not from compilations.

Today I’ve decided to share five of my favorites:

An Ethiopian proverb:

When spiderwebs unite, they can tie up a lion.

Rudyard Kipling, poet:

All good people agree, 

And all good people say, 

All nice people, like Us, are...

Agile Retrospectives

They Got It!

Last month, Cory Foy sent me an email about a project retrospective that gave his team new insights and direction. He used the subject line, “They got it!” You can find the story of Cory’s recent retrospective experience, along with the thread of additional comments, on the XP list digest archive.

Agile Retrospectives