Hello! Proceeding with the idea of sharing with you techniques used on Retrospective meetings, today I’m going to tell you about another activity I used with one of our teams. This activity was adapted from Retrospective Cookies, by Adam Weisbart, and worked really well, mainly because of one of the resources involved: food, in this case, candy.
The activity developed by Adam Weisbart aims at putting together 2 things that the author considers to be factors of success on this type of meeting: questions that causes the team to think deeply and food, an ingredient never considered to be harmful on a meeting. Thinking about it, Adam collected 25 questions about the Scrum process and about Sprint’s common worries and created a box of chinese cookies, with each of these questions inside of each one of them. The idea is that along the Retrospective, each member get a cookie out of the box, read their question, discuss it with the team and eat their cookie, of course.
In my case, I decided to adapt the activity so I could create my own questions. Since I couldn’t hide them inside chinese cookies, I decided to go along with candies, also very well received by most people. Since it was the last Retrospective meeting of the year, the goal of the meeting was to reflect on the whole work developed along the year, what went well and what went wrong, what was ahead of us and what we could improve. Thus, I created questions that were related to these topics and I put them into little colored envelopes, like those on that image on the right. And then the first phase of the activity’s preparation was done.
The second phase was to buy the candies. My intention was to make the team pick the candies by their flavor, so the question would come as a “gift”. So, I bought 10 different candies and under each one of them I put a piece of the paper that would match the colors of the envelopes. That way, when each person chose their candy, they would receive a question associated to it and this question would have to be answered and discussed with the team, if someone had something to say about it.
This was how the room looked like before the meeting started:
I felt that the team was really excited with this new activity and because it envolved an element that pleased them all. The fact that the Scrum Master gets to create questions that maybe they are not expecting to answer raises interesting topics about the work and may help when the Scrum Master feels that it’s time to discuss something that just don’t come up on ordinary Retrospective meetings. By involving food it makes the atmosphere of the meeting light and relaxed, even if heavy topics have to discussed. It ends up that the meeting becomes an open space, where everyone feel free to expose their opinions and participate in the discussions.
One tip is to try to involve elements that please the team. For example, my initial idea was to use little Panettones, because of the time of the year. But I found out that part of team didn’t like it and so I decided to go for candies. Maybe if I had stick to the initial idea, there wouldn’t have been a joke about getting their favorite candy and the atmosphere wouldn’t have been so relaxed.
Another tip is to be careful while creating the questions. Sometimes when we are doing it we think that they’ll cause some topics to be brought up, but in the end it’s very related to the answerer’s reading. Try to create questions extremely to the point and try to ask correctly. Believe me, “Do you want this?” and “Do you not what this?” may have very distinct answers.
At last, always improve and change your questions. While I was runnning this Retrospective, I realized that some questions didn’t work out as I expected them to. So, next time, these questions will surely be improved so they can do better at accomplishing their goals. And, of course, according to the focus of the Retrospective, these questions should be updated. Remember to always ask things that go straight to the subject that you want the team to give some attention to. Sometimes, these topics come up by themselves, but sometimes they need a little push.
So, did you like it? How about now trying it with your team and coming back here to tell us about your experience?