by Jason Cusack: an Enterprise Agile Coach, and has held roles as a Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Corporate Bureaucracy Destroyer.
It´s a pleasure to have Jason Cusack contributing to our blog. Jason is a passionate Enterprise Agile Coach. He has led agile transformation in various business sectors and he thinks that interacting with smart people is a huge benefit to this profession and that´s the reason why he invests in this area.
Jason shares one of his favorite agile retrospectives exercises – “Pictionary”
Practice team he works with looks for creative ways to breathe life back into stale retrospectives. They love to embody techniques that require engagement from the WHOLE team, and prevent a few strong personalities from taking over the session. Teams get bored when they have run the sailboat six sprints in a row. They get even more bored when the cadence reverts to “what went well” and “what did not go well”. It´s easy for teams to go through the motions when retrospectives get boring, and their suite of retrospective techniques will definitely prevent boredom from creeping into your team’s mindset.
This technique is what they call “Pictionary”, and requires your team to rely on their art skills to convey improvement opportunities throughout the sprint.
What you can expect to get out of this exercise?
When you first pitch the idea, expect to see smiles, eye rolls, and nervous laughter. Teams will be outside of their retrospective comfort zone, which will help them be vulnerable to each other, and help create some team bonding. At a minimum, they can rally around how much they dislike you as a scrum master (or facilitator) for a few moments, before they realize how much they will laugh with each other over the next 57 minutes.
When you would use this exercise?
This exercise is good for teams who have been together for a few sprints, and have stopped putting an effort into conversations when you use typical techniques. This can also be a fun ice breaker for teams with newer members, or for teams that have inherent cliques built into them.
Jason´s team likes use the following pairing to help invoke a more collaborative session:
Pair 1: DEV member and QA member
Pair 2: Senior and Junior member of team
Pair 3: Team members that do not like each other, or have had conflict in the past
Pair 4: New team member with seasoned team member
These are just examples of how you can create teams, but we encourage you to create teams with sprint team members in any fashion that helps spark a fun conversation.
How to do it?
2 min – Give a quick overview of the history of strange art, perhaps highlighting Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp, Vincent Van Gogh – or any other artist you want to discuss. You can also show pictures that can be interpreted in 2 different ways, and are both correct based on the perception of the person looking at the image (google: candlestick or two faces, for an example).
2 min – Pick teams. You can do this by random draw (put everyone’s name in a pile of folded paper), or you can “create” teams on the fly, by pairing people up of your choosing. Teams of 2 or 3 team members are often the most optimal size. But you can make them bigger if necessary. You can have 5 or 6 drawings per session to review. Any less than that, and you might not be highlighting enough about your sprint.
10 min – Tell teams they can draw ANYTHING related to a challenge, improvement, gripe, observation, or item they would like to have changed about the most sprint or release. Teams are permitted to present up to two drawings, per each team. As teams finish, tell them to fold their paper so people do not get distracted by craning their neck to see what everyone has drawn. There will be laughter. Lots of it. Throughout these 10 minutes.
30 min – Go one team at a time, and allow them to present their drawing(s) to the group. The rest of the team NOPT presenting the drawing, must guess what the picture represents within the context of the sprint. The Scrum Master (or Facilitator) will write down ideas on a wall as teams begin guessing. These topics will become the list of things the team will vote on at the end. Spend about 5 min per drawing to get ideas about what it is. If someone guesses the correct meaning, the team presenting the drawing may acknowledge the correct answer has been given. If after 5 minutes no one has guessed the correct meaning, the team will share what they drawing represents.
10 min – After all drawings have been presented, and all guesses have been shared, tally up the guesses and look for themes. People will often guess issues, challenges or improvements they would like to see addressed, so it’s a good way to get a mix of ideas that can be used as a manner to collect votes at the end of the session. If people draw the same item, you may not need to collect a bunch of other ideas – as a theme may be obvious. But it´s always fun to collect guesses – and SAVE the pictures. Other teams will hear about this, and will want to see the drawings.
5 min – Close out the retrospective with votes on what the team would like to see changed. Whether you quickly come up with a solution at the end of the retro, or whether problem identification is the end goal you strive for (with experiments to be run the next sprint), is entirely up to you.
Jason Cusack is an Enterprise Agile Coach, and has held roles as a Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Corporate Bureaucracy Destroyer.
For questions, comments, or feedback, please contact Jason on twitter @scrumjitsu.
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