Speaking at LAST Conference 2016

I’m really excited to be speaking at LAST conference on Thursday the 30th of June and Friday the 1st of July 2016. My talk is about bringing your retrospectives to life. In this talk I’ll be sharing some of the retro themes of blogged about in the past including:

I’ll also be sharing some ice breakers that you can use to bring life to your retros such as:

Hope to see you there.

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bikablo – Visual Facilitation

Last week I was fortunate enough to participate in 2 days of bikablo training with Marcel van Hove.

What is bikablo?
Well as Marcel has kindly put on his website – It’s an easy to learn visual facilitation technique that helps you to facilitate meetings and workshops. You don’t need any drawing skills and after the training you will be ready to rock and draw your own awesome flipcharts and facilitate meetings! … and I can echo that and have begun putting it into practice.

Going into the training most of the group I was in (11 people) didn’t think that they could draw, but by the end of the 2 days we were all drawing and story telling using the techniques we had learnt.

One of the key takeaways for me was not only being able to use bikablo in team meetings, ceremonies and workshops but also to help bring out story boards and program walls to life.

If you’re interested in the training and I highly recommend it reach out to Marcel van Hove via his website – http://www.marcelvanhove.com/

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Good Day Bad Day

I was having a conversation with my wife (Lauren) today on our way home from visiting friends, about the dinner time conversations that we have as a family. Most nights of the week we eat our dinner with our two children with the television off, and have a conversation about each of days.

Lauren told me about something she read (she couldn’t remember where) call Good Day Bad Day. The concept is at the dinner table when we have our family chat we should each share something that made our day good and something that made our day bad, no matter how big or small it is.

At the heart of this is encouraging our children to share their thoughts and let us know what’s going on, in particular our son who started school this year. He now spends more time away from us (outside of sleeping hours) than with us during the week, so it’s good for us as parents to know what is happening during his day.

We plan to try it out on Monday night and hope that it helps us to get more information out of our son and give us an insight into what he learnt that day, what’s troubling him and what he is enjoying.

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Give me a hoot

In the last couple of teams I’ve worked with we’ve had some time critical projects to deliver with extremely tight deadlines to hit. As a Scrum Master or Coach during times like these you need to bring a little something extra, in order to keep people up beat and focused on the tasks at hand.

Something I’ve used during times like I’ve described above is a team hooter (or bike horn). The idea is as you finish a story (or move it to done) then you should press the hooter to let you team mates and the people around you know that we’ve made some progress. This is usually followed by a round of applause from everyone in a show of support.

It’s amazing how infectious something this simple can be and quite interesting how people really do get into it. Just today I had another team ask me where I got my hooter from as they wanted to do the same thing. We then laughed about the possibility of doing a Mexican wave of applause when a big milestone is hit.

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Valentines Day themed retrospective 2016

Last year I facilitated a Valentines Day themed retrospective with the team I was working with. This year I’ve started working with a new team, and whilst it was only our second retrospective together I thought it was a good opportunity to use the Valentines Day theme, as it was only two days out from the Hallmark holiday.

This theme is quite easy to work with, simply draw a big heart with an arrow from cupid through it on a whiteboard (or butchers paper). Once the picture is complete set the context with the team which is quite simply what we loved this sprint and what we didn’t.

As an added bonus to get everyone in that Valentines Day spirit I played a little bit of Barry White’s classic hit Can’t get enough of your love, babe as the team wrote their thoughts on post-it notes.

As people were ready we placed our post-it notes either in the heart for the things we loved, or outside the heart for the things we didn’t. We then grouped them into themes of conversation and then discuss the groups starting with what we didn’t love first. We saved the things we loved until the end so we could head into our weekend on a good note.

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Overall this is quite a simple theme to work with and adding the music to it gave it a little something extra.

 

 

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Charging your car whilst you shop

Over the Christmas / New Year holiday period my family and I traveled across town to a shopping centre (Chadstone) that we don’t normally visit. We had received some vouchers for a store which only has a couple of locations in Melbourne, one being at Chadstone.

As we were walking into the entrance of the complex from the basement car park I noticed something you don’t see everyday and in fact that I hadn’t seen before, a Tesla charging station (including a car charging).

Tesla is an American automotive and energy storage company based out of Palo Alto California, that designs, manufactures, and sells luxury electric cars, electric vehicle components and battery products. 

I was really quite amazed and quickly pulled out my phone to take a couple of photos.

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Whilst this was my first Tesla sighting in the wild it certainty won’t be my last. Charging stations similar to this will soon pop up everywhere and will be common at any location that you can park as more electric cars hit our roads. In the not to distant future we’ll likely see our self driving cars automatically navigate to a charging station as it’s power runs low.

 

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Christmas Tree Retrospective 2015

Last Friday we had our final team retrospective for 2015 and given that it’s the festive season we thought it was only fitting to go with a festive theme (similar to last year).

How did it work

I started off by drawing a Christmas tree on the whiteboard and asked each member of the team to come up an draw a decoration on the tree.

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Once everyone was happy with how the tree looked, we took five minutes to reflect of the good things we accomplished, learnt and enjoyed throughout 2015.

We wrote those thoughts on post-it notes and placed them on the board, in grouped areas. Discussing each section from the bottom to the top of the tree.

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What did we learn

Only focusing on the positives was a great way to end the year. We had really good discussions around what people had learnt and how far we’d come as a team. As well as having an opportunity of people to thank each other for their contribution to the team in 2015.

 

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One Last Word

In my last post I wrote about a check-in activity that I’ve been running with my teams recently called One Word. Over the past few weeks this activity has continued to work really well at the start of our retrospectives.

Last week whilst looking for a different retrospective format to run at the end of a large program of work for a team, I came across a follow on to the One Word check-in activity – One Word Before Leaving.

The purpose of this activity is to discover how people are feeling at the end of a retrospective (or meeting, workshop, etc.), and follows a very similar format as the One Word check-in activity.

How to run the One Word Before Leaving activity. 

  1. Give each person in the room a pen/sharpie and a post-it.
  2. Set the context for everyone “On the post-it provided please describe how you feeling now, at the end of this retrospective”.
  3. Ask the team to place and group the post-its on an open canvas or whiteboard.
  4. As an optional step ask if anyone would like to share more about their word.

What did we learn?

This was a great activity to wrap up and close a retrospective, and really did give us an insight into what people’s thoughts and feelings were at that moment in time.

As we used One Word to check-in it also visually worked quite well to run One Last Word (before you leave) as a way of seeing if what we discussed over the retrospective changed people’s thoughts and feelings.

Upon further reflection you could also use this activity as a facilitator to gain feedback on what people thought of your session, by asking them to place their post-it’s on the wall as they leave.

How long did it take?

As people already had post-it notes, the One Last Word activity only took a couple of minutes to run and complete.

References

If you are interested to know more I found this activity on the Fun Retrospectives website, or you can reach out via twitter, or leave a comment below.

 

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One Word – A great way to check-in and see how people are feeling

Do you have members of your team that are often quiet or say very little in meetings, workshops or retrospectives, even though you know they could provide good input to the conversation?

I’ve experienced this recently with a team I’ve been working with and thought I’d try a little ice breaker before we began our most recent retrospective.

The ice breaker was a quick check-in activity called One Word, with an aim of getting people to share how they are feeling before deep diving into the main session (in our case a retrospective).

How to run the activity?

  1. Give each person in the room a pen/sharpie and a post-it.
  2. Set the context for everyone “On the post-it provided please describe how you felt about the last sprint using one word”.
  3. Ask the team to place and group the post-its on an open canvas or whiteboard.
  4. Ask everyone to share their word and why they wrote it, or just simplify share just their word.

What did we learn?

This is a great activity to get everyone involved in a meeting/workshop/retrospective early, and at the very least gets each person to speak once.

From our session we had a range of feelings which has really insightful, and everyone elaborated on their word when they were asked if they’d like to share. Running this activity prior also encouraged more people to open up during our retrospective which followed directly after.

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We also kept the canvas we used to collect the teams thoughts and placed it near our wall, so that we could keep it visible and reflect back on them next time we do the one word activity.

The added bonus of keeping the canvas and making it visible was during our recent Gemba walk with our key stakeholders, we were able to talk to it and give them an insight into how the team are feeling.

References

If you are interested to know more I found this activity on the Fun Retrospectives website.
Alternatively check out the Agile Retrospective book by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen who describe this activity as the Check-in activity.

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Australian Rules Football Themed Retrospective 

Its currently the business end of the AFL season (Australian Rules Football) with the Preliminary Finals set to take place this weekend. The winners of those games will face off in the Australian version of the SuperBowl – the AFL Grand Final.

I live in Melbourne and with a lot of hype around these games I thought it would be good to try and AFL or Australian Rules themed retrospective with my team.

If you are from Melbourne you cannot escape finals fever so there was no need to deeply set context with my team around how this theme would work. However  I realise that some of you may not have an understanding of how Australian Rules Football works so here is is an overview if you’d like to know more.

How did it work?

To start I drew the goal and point posts in the middle of the board, along with the boundary line on the outside of the posts. I then invited the team to add anything else to the board they thought was fitting for the themed. This included a goal umpire, a player kicking the ball, the ball sailing through the goals and the goal square.

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Once the drawing was complete when then agreed that the sections of the board would work as follows:

  • What goals did we kick this iteration? (the big posts in the middle and the goal square)
  • How did you miss that? (what’s puzzling us or the small posts either side of the goals)
  • What did we kick out on the full? (what didn’t go well or anything outside the posts)

The team then wrote their thoughts and reflections on post-it notes and placed them on the whiteboard. We then grouped the common thoughts and begun discussing each one from out on the full, to what we missed and finally what goals did we kick. As always we took actions throughout where we needed to so that we can follow up the things we need to do before the next retrospective.

What did we learn?

Unlike previous sporting themed retrospectives we’ve tried, the Australian Rules Football themed retrospective didn’t work quite as well. This was largely due to some of the sections of the board being split from left to right, and as a result some of the groups of topics to discuss were on the right of the goal posts and some to the left (for what we kicked out on the full or what we missed). This mean’t from a facilitation persecutive I was jumping across the board a lot.

The session itself was time boxed to one hour with five minutes at the start for drawing and five minutes to reflect on our thoughts, before grouping and conversations.

If you have any suggestion on how we could better adapt this retrospective theme for future use I’d love to here them. Please either leave a comment in this post or send me a tweet – @jhyett

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