Balloon Retrospective

During the retrospective one of the team suggested the Montgolfier brothers as their icon to describe the previous sprint.  In this case the description was that we were now flying as a team – still a little shaky but flying nonetheless. Balloon I had intended a repeat of the powerboat retrospective, but given the topical reference I modified it to be a hot air balloon <excuse the pun> ‘on the fly’.  In hindsight I think this actually worked out far better as a retrospective tool. The team were asked initially to identify any issues that were holding us down.  Anything stopping us flying or slowing us down.  The team were given a few minutes to identify issues (One per post-it) and then connect them to the Balloon drawing with an anchor rope. We went through the issues raised and identified common themes and grouped them. We also identified issues that could be explicitly added to the backlog as tasks or stories.  What remained were the groups of issues identified as holding us back. Next we moved on to note issues that were either giving us lift or could be done to help us take flight. Again one idea per post-it.  The post-its were placed in the balloon area.  After the team had enough time to run out of ideas, we again grouped the issues by common themes and removed any ‘easy wins’ that we could turn into tasks or stories on the backlog.   What remained were ideas for improving our velocity. Finally I drew a black cloud on the horizon and asked the team to identify abstract fears, issues that are looming or could hit us in the future. Again one idea per post-it and put the post-its in the dark and looming cloud. What we were left with was 4 groups of Post-its. Group 1; Stories or Tasks identified that we could put on the backlog for actioning.  These were specific and measurable tasks.

  • Chase hardware improvements
  • Request Extra Test Resources
  • Agree a data strategy

Group 2: The looming cloud – fears for the future, problems potentially looming. Things that we all need to be aware of but not necessarily react to yet.

  • Limited time and focus for re-factoring
  • Projects get derailed
  • External distractions impacting team
  • Project vs Product
  • The Unknown (Restructuring departments)

Group 3: Issues holding us back.  Areas where we could take action to change, essentially areas we should stop bad behaviour in or out of the team.

  • Lack of proper UI Design is holding us back
  • Availability of external resources
  • Red tape
  • Long-term architecture unclear
  • Decisions without consultation

Group 4: Ideas for steps we could take to improve our velocity, either by continuing good behaviours or ideas for new actions that would improve the team.

  • Learn from group design task and improve on this (Commitment from last sprint, which has been very successful), and identify design issues early.
  • More aggressive impediment removal (I have paraphrased slightly)
  • Improve organisation of BDD tests.

Given our over arching goal of small increments each Sprint, we set about selecting two behaviours (Good or Bad) to focus on for the next sprint.  Each team member was allowed 3 votes.  The can put all 3 on one issue or one on three etc. But no more than three votes. The team voted overwhelmingly for the following two commitments:

  • To establish a template for a UI Wireframe, and to seek 3rd party input into our UI design.
  • To learn from the success of design meetings and improve, specifically to hold a review session early in the story.

The overwhelming feeling of the Retrospective was positive, the team really feels like they are now working better together and improving. Although all sprint objectives were not fully met the team felt they had over-committed and the unfinished task will be carried over to the next sprint and improved upon.