Mark Pearl

Retrospectives are a tricky thing, you get a mix of people who have varying personalities and qualities and now they need to look objectively at the previous iteration, focussing on the performance of the team and interact, giving ideas and finding ways to improving the team practices for the next iteration.

In the ones I have been involved in, you get an array of people, some like to dominate the conversation while others would rather not say anything. Getting a balanced participation and a focus from the team on the purpose of the retrospective is both challenging and critical for the team to improve.

One of the tricks of a retrospective is to get everyone in the team to say something within the first few minutes of the retrospective. Generally it is found that if everyone says something within those first few minutes, the participation level of the team for the rest of the retrospective is higher. I have tried a range of different ways of achieving this and recently stumbled on a really nice way to get the team to focus on the purpose of the retrospective as well as getting everyone say something quickly, I have called it the goal analysis card game.

What you will need cards that you can print one, preferably playing card size (one for each team member attending the retrospective) goals from previous retrospective / team contracts or general agile principles table where the retrospective will be held Before Retrospective Preparation Before the retrospective you need to prepare the cards. Take the goals from the last retrospective – typically you would have a handful of these (4 or 5 at tops – setting SMART goals will be another posting if I get around to it). Print each goal on a card. You want one card per person attending the retrospective - if you do not have enough goals to cover each team member, go through team contracts / agreements and add them to the card pile. That’s all the prep work you need.

Playing the Game Get everyone to sit around a table. Place the cards face down on the table and randomly order them in front of the team (it’s important that the team knows the cards are randomly ordered so that they do not feel that they are individually being targeted).

Explain to the team that to start the retrospective we are going to play a game. Each person will have a turn

For a turn, the team member chooses a card from the table (without knowing what’s on it) – they read the card to the team, then express to the team whether in their opinion this goal/contract/principle was met in the last retrospective. If they feel it was met they need to give one concrete example of when. If they feel it was not met, they need give a reason in their opinion why not. Once they have done this, if anyone else in the team feels they need to add to that, they can do so.

You then work your way around the table, each person going. Be careful to keep the focus on the items and not let the conversation derail. If you think it is derailing, ask if we can park the issue and move on to the next card.

The Results I found this game to be a nice way to get a team to focus on the retrospective, and to get everyone to participate. In particular, it helps when you have one or two individuals on the team who have been on the quiet side to feel more included in the team and the opinions heard. I would love to get feedback from others if anyone tries this approach or any variant of it.

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