Category Archives: Continuous Improvement

My 200th Retrospective

Retro-Impressione

On 22.10.2019 I facilitated my 200th retrospective. Between 2012 and 2019 this means in average one retro in two weeks.

I want to say “thank you” to all the teams, I was able to support in their continuous improvement process.

More than 320 hours for me as facilitator, plus at least 400 hours for planning, preparing, and postprocessing.

Often, I was asked: “Isn’t this boring?” Not at all – and for many reasons:

  • Working with people and on the organization is extremly interesting and important.
  • With each retrospective, I learn something new: new people, already known people better, new behaviours, new methods, visualizing, and how the organizations works.
  • It is very satisfying and less frustrating to see, how teams or even individuals work and react on the results of a retrospective and how they grow.
  • Often, I’m not only the facilitator, but also coach, mentor, and teacher – well indicating to the team in which role I am right now.

During that time, I also invented own formats:

  • Outdoor Retro
  • Lego Retro
  • Remote Retros across multiple location
  • Retro Memory
  • St. Nicholas Day Retro (it is typical in Germany that you receive sweets for good behaviour and birching with a rod in case of bad behaviour (literally meaning). “I deserve a lot of sweets because…” and “I deserve the rod for…”.
  • An end-of-year retrospective with the minutes of all retros of the year, reflecting on the changes as well as on the methods.
  • X-Mas Retro: We decorate the tree with a yellow Christmas tree ball for what we have learned and a green one for saying thank you to a colleague.

Especially worth to mention is my favourite retro team. During 35 retrospectives, they went through almost all of my experiments and it was logical that they deserved the jubilee retrospective with cake.

The most impressive moments were the appreciative exercises. Simply saying thanks to a colleague or expressing admiration. This always resulted in some (hidden) tears…

My worst retrospective was the forgotten one: Outlook reminded me 15 minutes before. Damn! But I thought: “Come on, with your experience, you can do a retro instantly”. It was a desaster. Not in the mood and not prepared. I’d better had canceled it. What did I learn from this? Take every retrospective seriously. The participants take their time and they deserve a good retrospective.

I also had to drop a team. I had the feeling that I could not help them. So they got professional support from HR.

My goal is not only to improve my own retrospective facilitation skills but also to enable more and more colleagues to perform good and effecitve retrospectives. In 2016, I created a retrospective facilitator program, consisting of a one day basics training and 4 subsequent quarterly half-day intermediate trainings. Meanwhile, almost 100 participants participated in the basics training and 20 passed the entire program.

I’m looking forward to the next retrospectives. Thank you very much!

Brainstorming adventures and insights

In one retrospective I gave the team 10 minutes for a silent brainstorming. They started writing sticky notes. As expected, after about three minutes, the writing slowed significantly down. As experienced facilitator, you have to stand this phase of low activity with all eyes focused on you, begging for salvation.

But what happened now in my retrospective? One put out his smartphone, followed by another one. I couldn`t believe it. The remaining time, I kept monitoring the situation and thought about it. When the timer bell ringed, I appreciated the participation. Then I told them about my observation. The omnipresent distraction by smartphones (and the upcoming smartwatches), resulted in a few sticky notes. The deeper engagement was sacrificed for the easy distraction – what a pity!

Here a typical activity diagram for such a situation:

brainstorming-activity

In the first activity phase, participants find the obvious topics – the low hanging fruit. The first activity phase is followed by a phase of low writing activity but high brain activity. This phase is crucial for the identification of more revealing, creative, relevant, and understanding topics. This leads in most cases to more sticky notes.

However participants seek for shortening their brainwork – if consciously or not – the result is the same: Low hanging results with only little potential.

Unexperienced facilitators fall into this trap frequently by stopping the brainstorming when nobody writes anymore and all stare at them or in the air. Often they feel well because they increased the efficiency of the retro by saving a few minutes.

 

What are your experiences? Somebody knows more about the background? Please comment here.