Hibri Marzook Musings on technology and systems thinking

Appreciative Retrospective

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Recently I facilitated an Appreciative Retrospective for my team. An appreciative retrospective focuses on the positives “What did we do well? What worked ?”, instead of the usual “What went wrong, What can we do better” tone of retrospectives. This style of retrospective uses Appreciative Inquiry to identify what went so well.  There is no blame or negativity, and builds on the Prime Directive, that everyone in the team did the best job they could possibly do.

Appreciative Inquiry builds on the positives, and attempts to amplify the good things we have done, and ensure that what makes us good is identified and refined. We usually end up loosing sight of what works for us in retrospectives, as we focus on the problems to fix.

I followed retrospective plan described here Retrospective using Appreciative Inquiry. The goal for the retrospective was to find “Where and how we added value during the past sprint”

Setting the stage. (5 minutes)
To set the positive tone, ask each member of the team to write on a post-it, a note of appreciation to someone else on the team. When everyone has written their notes, go around the table and have them read it out loud.

Gather data (5 minutes)
This is a brainstorming exercise. Distribute post-its of 3 colours. On each coloured post-it, have everyone write the team’s successes, strengths and events during the past iteration. Use one colour for each. Write as many as possible. Stick these up on one section of the board.

Generate Insights

Brainstorm the future (10 minutes)
This is similar to the previous exercise but needs more creativity. Have the team time travel to the end of the next iteration. Imagine what their successes, strengths and events would be in the not so far future. What would they achieve if they keep doing the best they can.

Write these on the same coloured post-its as the previous exercise and stick them up on another part of the board.

Affinity Mapping (15 minutes)
Get the team to the board. Group the different post-its. It is ok to mix up the post-its. Look for common groups and themes, pull these out. Group them into their own sections on the board and circle and label them.

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Dot voting (5 minutes)

Have the team think about what groups/themes they want to sustain. Each member has two votes. Pick two groups with the most

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Decide what to do (15 minutes)

Ask the team, based on what they have identified as their future successes, strengths and positive events, what actions can they take do achieve them. This could be in the form of “do more of, keep doing” actions.  Pick two to three actions but not more.

Close the retrospective. ( 5 minutes)

I closed the retrospective with a Activity +/delta exercise.

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My team found it very refreshing to focus on the brilliant work they’ve done, instead of being reminded of the few negative things that affected us. Variety in retrospectives was welcomed. Although the team wanted not to loose sight of negatives.

I recommend this style of retrospective, when the team is doing a lot of good things. However, make sure that any pressing issues during the past iteration are addressed. We had a post retrospective discussion about our stand-ups.

Try it for your team.

By Hibri Marzook

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