Try A Festive Agile Retrospective!

Christmas is approaching and you’re coming to the end of your sprint… why not capitalise on the season of goodwill and hold a festive themed agile retrospective!

In order to keep things nice and simple for you, I am going to use my favoured template to help lead and shape the discussion. For those who aren’t familiar, I like to use the following from “Agile Retrospectives – Making Good Teams Great”.

  • Set The Scene
  • Gather Data
  • Generate Insights
  • Decide What To Do
  • Close Retrospective

I’d love to hear how you get on with this retrospective, how the team reacted and how it helped or hindered the discussion! Leave a comment with how it went!

Festive Retrospective!

You will need:

  • Post it notes
  • Whiteboard/flipchart
  • Whiteboard/marker pens
  • Planning poker cards

Highly recommended/optional:

  • Festive playlist – load your phone with a selection of Christmas songs to help manage the time during activities. I like to limit activities to the length of “x” amount of songs. Personal favourite Christmas songs of mine are Merry Christmas Everyone by Shakin’ Stevens and the Michael Buble Christmas album!
  • Christmas treats – As mentioned in previous posts, the retrospective is cause for a celebration and a valuable chance to build the culture of the team. I always recommend bringing in sweets or chocolates. As it’s Christmas, take advantage of the mince pies on offer in the supermarkets, or if you’re feeling brave, bake your own (providing there are no health and safety issues…)!
  • Christmas jumpers – Why not?!

Set The Scene – Festive Foodies!

This is my favourite, fun way to start a retrospective. I like my teams to come up with a metaphor to describe the sprint. In previous retrospectives I have used food, drinks, movies, songs, countries, I haven’t yet found one that doesn’t work. I’ve even managed to get this to work with teams based in India, where I was worried that this exercise may become lost in translation!

Give the team a few moments to think of a festive food that best describes the sprint just gone. Each person should do this individually. Get each team member to write it on a post it and stick it to the board. Then, go round the team one by one and get them to explain their Festive food and why the sprint relates to that.

You might want to give an example like:

A tin of Quality Street – The sprint has been great, with lots of variety and interesting stuff going on. However, I picked out a “toffee penny” of a user story that’s full of issues…

Gather Data – He’s Making A List, Checking It Twice…

Now that the team are warmed up, in good spirits and onto their second mince pie, we need to get to the bottom of their metaphors by thinking about some of the events that occurred during the sprint.

Ask the team to think about some of the events that happened in the last sprint and categorise them into two columns:

“The Naughty List” and “The Nice List”.

“The Naughty List” should contain all of the bad, frustrating, annoying and generally unfortunate things that occurred during the sprint. This could be anything from poorly defined stories, build issues, lack of knowledge etc.

“The Nice List” should contain all of the good things that occurred during the sprint!

I’d recommend giving the team the length of 2 to 3 songs worth of time to compile the list.

Once this is done, get each person to read out their events of the sprint, explaining why each is either naughty, or nice!

Generate Insights – Santa’s Sleigh

Now that as a team we have learned a little bit more about the sprint, it’s time to do something about it! Let’s use the idea of Santa’s Sleigh.

All of the items on the Naughty List are weighing Santa’s Sleigh down, causing his productivity on Christmas Eve to struggle. These are his presents. If we can somehow remove, or deliver his presents, his Sleigh will fly a little more smoothly, causing him to be more productive.

The items on the Nice List however, are helping to pull Santa’s Sleigh along. These are his trusty reindeer! How can we do more of things on the Nice List, or do them better? Think of this as adding a reindeer to the sleigh.

Using the Naughty and Nice lists as a reference, ask each team member to come up with 1 idea to deliver presents (tackle an item on the naughty list) and 1 idea to add a reindeer (maximise the nice list).

Again, limit this to a number of songs and get each team member to explain their idea to the team!

Decide What To Do – North Pole Dollars

Now in order to keep the number of action points to take into the next sprint manageable, we need to decide as a team which we would like to focus on.

To do this, the team needs to come to a collective agreement. I have tried many ways to quickly, fairly and efficiently do this, but find that dot voting or a twist on relative estimation is the best. As we did a twist on dot voting in my last themed retrospective, lets go with relative estimation this time.

Hand out your Planning Poker cards to each team member. Ask the team to quickly decide which improvement would be the least valuable to the team. Once this is decided, the team should estimate this by holding up a card.

Take an average based on the estimation, so if the team hold up a 1, 3, 1, 5 and a 13, then the average is 23/5= 4.6. Multiply this average by 1000 to give you your value.

For added fun you can assign a monetary value to this, say North Pole Dollars. Therefore this improvement has a value to the team of NP$4,600. I first used this idea of assigning fictitious currency when doing my ScrumMaster certification training and found it fun and a great way to help prioritise!

Using this item as a frame of reference, ask the team to assign values through planning poker to all the remaining improvements and collate a leader board (from highest value to least) for them all.

Once you have finished, the top 3 improvements are the most valuable to the team and the ones to be carried into the next sprint! Make sure that you don’t forget to assign the responsibility of looking after each action to someone and agree on the next steps!

Close Retrospective – Secret Santa

By now, you should have some actions to take into the next sprint. It’s time to end the retrospective with a little fun!

Anonymously, ask each team member to write a name of a team member who had the most positive impact on the sprint (no cheating and writing your own name here!). If they can also think of a reason (that doesn’t give their identity away) too, write that down as well.

Then, fold the notes and pop them in a bag for the ScrumMaster to draw out. One by one, draw the notes reading out the name and reason! This should give the team a boost, an opportunity to show some appreciation and have some fun too!

If you’re team doesn’t like the idea of this (I find some software teams don’t like some of this hippy “feel good” stuff), you can always instigate a game of Christmas charades!

Have a go at introducing some festive cheer into your next retrospective and remember to let me know how you get on!