Friday 31 October 2014

Retrospective Theme Idea - Spooky Sprint!

Happy Halloween!

I mentioned in my previous blog some tips for running a great retrospective. I am going to now expand on some of those ideas by giving you an insight into one of my themed retrospectives. Now as it is 31st October and the spookiest day of the year, this retrospective is going to embrace Halloween (we never too old, right?)!

So here are some ideas for you to play with if you are running a retrospective any time soon...

Spooky Sprint Retrospective!

As mentioned in my previous blog posts, I like to use a template from "Agile Retrospectives - Making Good Teams Great" to help guide my retrospectives, and this one is no different. The steps are:

  • Set The Scene
  • Gather Data
  • Generate Insights
  • Decide What To Do
  • Close Retrospective
If you are unfamiliar with this approach, I recommend getting the book or having a trawl on the net, as I am going to jump straight into the good stuff!

You will need:
  • Post it notes
  • Whiteboard/flip chart
  • Whiteboard/marker pens
Set The Scene - Halloween Treats!

I like to start retrospectives in a fun way to get the team warmed up and relaxed. I do this by using a Sprint Metaphor. Set the team the task to come up with a Halloween treat that best describes how the sprint went. This can be any piece of Halloween chocolate, sweets or confectionery. You might want to give the team an example like:

Haribo (Other sweets are available!) Tangfastics - The sprint has been generally productive and enjoyable, but the build issues that we have en counted during the sprint have left a really sour taste in my mouth!

Give the team a few moments to think of one each, then get them to write it on a post it and stick it to the board. Then, go round the team one by one and get them to explain their Halloween treat and why the sprint relates to that. 

Gather Data - Ghost Stories!

Now we know how the team feels following the sprint, it time to think about why. To do this, ask each team member to come up with a ghost story for the team. This can have a happy or a scary (sad) ending, but should cover the events that went on during the sprint.

Try to encourage the team by making it fun along the way!

Once each team member has their ghost story ready, get them one by one to tell it to the team!

Generate Insights - Trick or Treat!

Now comes the real crooks of the retrospective - coming up with some great ideas for improvement. To do this, use the idea of Trick or Treating.

Draw up two sections on the board, one for Trick, and one for Treat. Then ask each team member to stick one idea of a new idea to improve the team by as little as 1% in the Treat section, and one idea to eradicate an issue in the Trick column. These ideas should flow from the discussion in the earlier activities.

For example, a Treat may be: Let's start estimating using relative story points. And a Trick may be: Leaving testing to the end of the sprint is causing us so many issues, let's try doing this as we develop each story.

Once the team have come up with one idea in each, ask them to explain each point. At this point the discussion should be allowed to flow and the ScrumMaster (or whoever is running the retrospective) should be helping the team to capture the ideas being raised.

Decide What To Do - Pick a Door!

Now that the team has come up with an abundance of ideas, try to group the ones that are the same (or very similar) and number them all as doors.

The team will now have a number of options to choose to improve. For a team of 8 people, there could be up to 16 ideas.

Get the team to imagine the scenario that they are out Trick or Treating and only have time to visit three more houses. They can choose to visit three separate ones, the same one three times, or one house once, and another one twice. The team member cannot visit their own house (idea).

Get the team to then put one dot per visit to the door that they wish to visit. For a team of 8 people, there should be 24 dots distributed across the doors. Count up the visits on each door, pick the top 3 and there you have your 3 improvements to take forward into the next sprint, as decided by the team.

At this point it is usually wise to allocate these to specific team members and clarify what the next actions are to achieve this (it may be as simple as writing a user story up on the backlog).

Close Retrospective - Spook of the Sprint!

Now I always like to finish the sprint on a high note, so I like to play a little game, for this retrospective, Spook of the Sprint.

Ask each team member to go round the room and thank one team member for something they have done during the sprint. I usually don't let team members thank each other! Total up the votes, see who has the most and there you go, you have a Spook of the Sprint! Celebrate with a round of applause, or the presentation of a team mascot to have on their desk for the next sprint.

Try this to end the retrospective, it's amazing how good people feel as a result of it!

Other Ideas

Play Music - Rather than the team sitting in silence whilst they are thinking, give them a length or one, two or three songs. As it's a Halloween theme, think Thriller (the shorter radio version!), Rocky Horror Show or Ghostbusters!

Halloween Treats - Stick some sweets in the middle of the table, it's the end of the sprint, your team deserves it!
Dress Up - Why not go full Halloween on this? (Maybe not)

Now this kind of retrospective may seem a little abstract or off the wall, and believe me, I have had many a strange look by teams experiencing my themed retrospectives for the first time. BUT, do not worry! I promise you that running run, innovate retrospective like this will not only generate great, innovative ideas, but will also improve the bond within your team.

Give it a go!

Friday 24 October 2014

I Love Agile Retrospectives!

I absolutely love nothing more than running Agile retrospectives. It is my thing. It's the meeting that I look forward to most with every software team that I work with.

I run retrospectives for my team at McKenna Consultants, for teams that we work with on software development projects and for teams that we are coaching. I've run retrospectives for multiple teams. I also coach my clients to run them. I have even encouraged my girlfriend to run them for her team, in an industry totally different to technology! That is how much I love Agile retrospectives (geeky I know).

I get a real buzz from watching the conversation and discussion develop and new ideas growing from these. Here are 10 tips on how I like to run my retrospectives:

  1. Firstly, you have to do them (or at least have a mechanism for change embedded in your team) in order to be Agile.
  2. I prefer doing them on a Friday afternoon. It's the end of a usually busy week, Friday afternoon is the time to get together as a team, have some fun and get some ideas out.
  3. They need to be fun. Yes, FUN. Believe it or not it is allowed! I like to make them fun by running themes throughout. Below are some pictures of some of the themed retrospectives that I have been apart of. I have done themes of the World Cup, Wimbledon and Arnold Schwarzenegger to Star Wars! The key is finding a theme that is a) relevant; and b) is a shared interest amongst your team. 
    Wimbledon Retrospective Complete With Strawberry and Cream Cakes!

    World Cup 2014 Retrospective!
  4. Get out of the office. Put your tools down and go to a local cafe, park (if weather permits) or down the pub. If you get outside your usual workplace then the ideas will really start to flow! Warning: If you choose to go to the pub for your retrospective, it is generally a good idea not to have an alcoholic drink!
  5. Play music. Get the team to relax, use the music to fill any quiet moments when the team are thinking.
  6. Make it visual. It's no good sat around staring at your notebooks. Prepare handouts. Use a whiteboard. Drag your kanban in. Get creative.
  7. Read Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen. I love the structure to retrospectives that they suggest. It provides a great platform for me to go on and tailor my retrospectives to the team.
  8. Get some inspiration from other books like Innovation Games by Luke Hohmann. You'll be amazed at how many ideas that you can get and adapt to provide value to your team.
  9. Bring Food. People like food, simple. I'm not talking about a 3 course meal, some buns, tin of chocolates or bag of sweets is enough.
  10. Make sure that you leave the meeting with some actions that are followed up on. Fun is important, but you need to make sure that you and the team create value from it.
To help you come up with some retrospective themes, I will post some ideas from time to time on here, let me know how you get on!

Here's to continual improvement and happy "retrospecting"!

Tuesday 21 October 2014

The iPhone6+ Has Landed!

Today is an exciting day! My new iPhone6+ has arrived!

I was a little apprehensive considering the size of the phone, but I can safely say that I am pleasantly surprised!

My new iPhone6+ next to my (now tiny) iPhone 5!
The 6+ is lighter than I expected and with the huge screen available, I cannot wait to get playing with it!

At McKenna Consultants, we are already working on our first iPhone6+ specific app, so it has arrived just in time for me to do my Product Owner approvals. The project is an exciting festive themed app, with HealthKit integration, of which I am "Product-ownering".

I can't wait to get it all set up!

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Nominated For An Agile Award!

It gives me great pleasure to announce that I have been nominated for a UK Agile Award 2014!

I am on a shortlist of 3 to receive the "Best Agile Coach or Mentor - Process", for my work with McKenna Consultants on the EMIS Agile Transformation project.

Considering my nomination and the amount of Agile consultancy that I have been doing lately, I thought that it was about time that I set up my own Agile and technology related blog, to share my stories, hints, tips and some general Agile opinions!

The awards ceremony is on Thursday 20th November 2014 and I will be posting the outcome on here! Win or lose, it is a great honour and one that I am immensely proud of!