I’m not sure if there are any statistics about this, but last year I decided to keep track of many stuff. One of these things is which retrospective exercises I used and how often.
The idea was dead simple. I kept a text file where I recorded for every retrospective I facilitated, which exercises I used. There were 46 distinct exercises in total. You can check the full list below.
Quick note: In total, 73 retrospectives at least. Not that bad. At some point, I stopped tracking because I changed my position from Agile Coach to Tech Manager and there were some moments of transition where retrospectives were not possible as well for the teams otherwise the number would be much higher.
As you can see above, the winner was the classic brainstorming exercise. This one is a very good choice when you don’t have too much time to prepare or you’re not in the mood for an awesome session. That’s for sure a good choice for suchlike moments. I usually follow the brainstorming exercise with some solution discovery exercise such Lean Coffee so we can figure out some actionable stuff.
It was a surprise for me that the Perfection Game was one of my favourites as well. The experiences I had were always positive with this exercise. I’m not exactly sure why, but people usually like it and I do as well. Perhaps it’s because of its objectivity and quick way to figure out what to improve. If you don’t know this one, I highly recommend it for your next retrospective. Give it a try and let me know if you and the team enjoyed it as well.
Another insight from the data is that I didn’t use often the first approach we all learn when it comes to retrospectives. The “Went well, Went bad” approach. I know why this one was not used too often. It was intentional. I wanted to provide to teams different approaches and also compare same approaches between teams. I see retrospectives not only as a super opportunity to teams but also for me to experiment, learn, and compare approaches between teams in order to understand better their dynamics and peoples reactions to such exercises. This helped me so far to maximize in the great majority of cased, the return of time invested by the team on retrospectives.
Retrospectives nowadays became such a cliche that I try to be very careful not to just provide the “fun” part of it, but also make sure that the “professional” purpose of it is also delivered to the teams. By professional, I mean to use it as a tool to foster continuous improvement inside agile teams.
The funniest one, for me at least, was the Unlikely Superheroes exercise. Although I did it once, I have good memories of it and how people also had fun during the exercise while trying to portrait their strengths and weakness into a superhero character. Since this was a very personal exercise, no pictures were taken otherwise I would be able to share here the coolest superheroes that were created during the session.
What about you? Did you keep track of your retros? Which method did you use? How to know if you’re heading in the right direction? How do you know which exercise works better for you and for the teams? Share with me your perspectives and techniques. I’d love to learn more about it.
I have my own personal way of preparing for retrospectives. It’s nothing revolutionary or fancy, but it helped me a lot to facilitate and learn from each retrospective. If you’re interested in knowing about this procedure, leave a comment here or just drop me a message on Twitter @jcfausto.