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Regular retrospectives are essential for continuous improvement, but they can get a little tedious if the same format is constantly used. Having variation in location and structure helps to create some interest and hopefully a bit of fun! There are various places to look for ideas, here are a few I use:

For a recent retrospective, and as we’re in the Christmas season, I wanted to have a festive theme to set the mood. I’d come across the Many Faces of Jack Sparrow idea, which I really liked and with a small change came up with – Many Faces of Santa.

This is the board we started with (only a few searches to find the images):

Everyone could see the board as they came into the room which aroused curiosity and a few smiles. The anticipation showed everyone was ready to start!

This is the format I used, for which I allowed 1.5 – 2 hours:

  1. Introduction – explaining the format of the retrospective. There were 8 people for this session, so I asked everyone to reflect on the last few weeks and see what stands out for them. Also, to look at the faces of Santa on the board and decide how they intrepret each expression. A few festives chocolates got the energy folowing…as we started at 10:30am I held back on the mulled wine! (5 mins)
  2. Writing cards – each person writes their thoughts on cards (post-its) using Santa’s emotions to guide their thinking. They then stick their thoughts next to the relevant picture (10 mins)
  3. Quick check of cards – quickly scan cards to check everyone understands the meaning of each card and clarify any questions. You can double check if anyone wants to add another card to the board in case someone has jogged their memory (5 mins)
  4. Voting – each person adds stickers to cards they think are most important (we used gold stars!), allowing up to 5 votes each (5-10 mins)
  5. Open Discussions – discuss cards with most votes as they seem important to the team. Then work through the cards in descending order of votes making note of any actions as necessary. This should be as interactive as possible, so aim to get thoughts/opinions of everyone in the team during this time (60+ minutes)

Below is what the board looked like at the end of the session:

It was an interactive session with good points raised, having people move around adding cards and voting created a lively atmosphere. We could joke about our interpretation of the pictures which helped with some of the discussions. The festive theme gave the session a bit of fun which in turn relaxed the team.

I highly recommend varying your retrospectives. I’ve found that teams appreciate the thought and effort you make, they can see you care about them and the project, this gives them motivation to highlight ways the team can improve. This is what retrospectives are all about!

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