Hot Air Balloon Retrospective

I attended the LAST conference in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago and got to listen to some amazing people talk about Lean, Agile and Systems Thinking.

One of the talks I went to (by Ryan McKergow) was on breaking the mould of the traditional Agile retrospective – discussing what went well?, what didn’t go so well? and what puzzles us? and trying new formats to achieve different results.

My team and I have been running the same old retro for the past 13 Iterations (or since the team adopted an Agile way of working late last year) and I’ll be the first to admit that running the same format has pretty much given us the same outcome each time…. and has become boring for all involved. 

So coming back from LAST I decided to mix things up and try one of the new formats that Ryan shared with us.

The first one I tried with the team was the Hot Air Ballon Retrospective – Ropes & Fuels.


How does it work?

The aim of this retrospective is to discover what carries the team forward (fuels) and what holds the team back (ropes).

First, I got team participation early in the piece by asking everyone to take part in drawing the Hot Air Balloon. Once they had finished we time boxed 5 minutes for people to place their thoughts and idea’s on the board.

We then grouped the notes into themes (for both fuels and ropes), discussed each grouping and took actions on the things that move us forward (keep doing them) and things that hold us back (how do we cut those ropes and take the team forward).

We discussed each group of notes in no particular order as we had time, but you could also try placing a dot point vote on each grouping and discuss the hot topics if you are pressed for time or have a lot of thoughts and idea’s to get through.

The outcome?

Overall I’d have to say that trying something new added a different dynamic to the retrospective. The discussion had a different tone and everyone was able to get involved (by drawing) even if they didn’t have much to say.

We ran this particular retrospective at the end of an incident (kind of like a PIR – post incident review) as we were keen to get some learnings from it. I’d be keen to run it again at the end of an Iteration to see how the conversation changes.

If you’d like more information on different types of retrospectives I highly recommend checking out the slides from Ryan McKergow’s talk at LAST – Retrospectives Strike Back 


This entry was posted in Agile, Kaizen, Projects, Retrospectives, Teams. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Hot Air Balloon Retrospective

  1. Pingback: Hot Air Balloon Retrospective – The Follow Up | Jay Hyett

  2. Pingback: Hot Air Balloon retrospective | Ari Byland

  3. gahlawatanju says:

    Reblogged this on EmbracingAgility and commented:
    A new of engaging team to the retrospectives and putting them on a single platform to speak up…

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