This tool can actually be used to run any meeting but I’ve found it to be very suitable as a sprint retrospective activity. The activity is based on a tool described in Edward de Bono’s book Six Thinking Hats. This is a parallel thinking process designed for effective group discussion and individual thinking. I saw Edward de Bono deliver a keynote presentation at the Learning Technologies conference in London a few years ago and had used the ‘Six Hats’ technique a number of times in meetings before trying to use it in a sprint retrospective.
The team will discuss the sprint that they have just completed but at any one time, the team must all be “wearing the same hat” meaning that they must approach the conversation at that time in a particular manner, as determined by the colour of the hat.
The activity may need to be done a couple of time before the team fully appreciate the way to approach each section of the conversation but it is a relatively straight forward retrospective activity and a great way to get the most out of a short session.
- Whiteboard / Write-on Wall / Poster Paper / Flip-Chart
- 6 Different Coloured Pens (Blue, White, Green, Yellow, Black, Red) (Optional)
- 6 Different Coloured Cards (Record cards or any pieces of card roughly A6 sized) (Blue, White, Green, Yellow, Black, Red) (Optional)
- 6 Different Coloured Hats (Blue, White, Green, Yellow, Black, Red) (Optional)
- 10 Minutes
As the scrum master / facilitator, all you NEED to do is make sure you understand the difference between the six different hats but there are a couple of things you can do to help the team get the most out of the session:
- If you have six different coloured pieces of card (or even just six pieces of cards) you can write the colour of the hat and a brief description:
- Blue – Process – How will we conduct this session? What do we want from the retrospective?
- White – The Facts – What do we know for sure about the last sprint?
- Yellow – Benefits – What were the positives we can take from the last sprint?
- Black – Cautions – What didn’t work well in the last sprint?
- Green – Creativity – How could you solve the problems in the last sprint?
- Red – Feelings – Which problem or solution discussed did you feel most strongly about?
- If you don’t have cards, you can just write these points at the top of the piece of paper (ideally in the correct coloured pen) on your flip-chart or in columns on a whiteboard/write-on wall.
- If this is the first time you are running this session, you should take 5-10 minutes at the beginning to give a fairly detailed description of the Six Thinking Hats process. If its not the first time you have done this then you can just give a quick recap during the first hit (the blue hat) section of the retrospective.
- Even if you have run this session with your team previously, it may be useful to quickly recap on the purpose of each ‘Hat’ as you move on to each section.
- Before you begin, have a quick think about how the team is arranged. You might want to mix people up and it can sometimes be helpful to discourage the team from talking to you (the facilitator) rather than each other by seating them in a circle and moving the flip-chart so that it is facing away from them. If they are facing each other instead of watching what you are writing on the board, the team can focus on talking to each other and discussing the points without distraction.
- Ensure that you capture the key points raised in each section in as much detail as possible.
- Blue Hat (5 mins)
- This shouldn’t take very long as the retrospective should be carried out in a similar manner each time but you can use this five minutes to quickly go over the Six Thinking Hats process and ask any newer members of the team if they understand the process.
- White Hat (10 mins)
- Here the team should all discuss the facts from the last sprint. How many stories were completed? How many bugs were raised? How many bugs were closed?
- Black Hat (10 mins)
- This ten minutes should be used for a logical discussion on the difficulties the team faced, the weakness they have witnessed and the dangers they may face in upcoming sprints.
- Green Hat (10 mins)
- The team should use this ten minutes to generate ideas and solutions to the issues highlighted in the black hat section. Blue-sky thinking and provocation (PO) is encouraged here.
- Yellow Hat (10 mins)
- This section should be used to discuss just the positive things that happened in the sprint. This section should also be used to discuss the positive merits of the solutions suggested in the green hat section.
- Red Hat (5 mins)
- This should be the most fast paced section of the session as you are trying to capture the team’s gut-instinct. The team should offer their hunches about the things that have been discussed using just the information they have heard and their intuition without giving reasoning. The team can come up to the board to write these points down all at the same time or they can quickly write down a few short statements on a piece of paper.
- Throughout the session, as well as capturing the output of discussions, your task as the facilitator is to ensure the team are approaching the conversation in the appropriate manner. If anyone is talking in a manner that isn’t right for that particular hat, you should interrupt them, explain which hat that kind of discussion is suitable for and then remind them how they should be evaluating the sprint whilst in this section.
- You should then spend a little time going over the information that has been captured throughout the session with a focus on trying to identify any themes/patterns.
- You should also take some time to discuss how the team felt the activity itself went. Did they enjoy the activity and did they find it useful or difficult to adjust to?
The real purpose around organising the sprint retrospective this way is to increase the efficiency of the session so as to get as much out of the short period of time as possible. If everyone is focused on the positives, people spend less time (and cognitive effort) thinking of counter arguments to people’s points which they may have actually agreed with to at least some extent. running the session using this technique also ensures that people are more likely to voice their real opinion on a matter when it seems more inline with what everyone else is saying.
Its also very important to always take the positives out of a sprint and try to ensure these are continued into the next. If you have had a particularly difficult sprint, it can be all to easy to focus on this during the retrospective. Dedicating an equal amount of time in the session to positives as negatives ensures that everything is captured, the good and the bad.
A clear set of actions should be recorded following discussion on each of the solutions suggestion and the positives and negatives described int he red hat section. These actions should be assigned to particular individuals and reviewed in the following retrospectives. You should also capture any ‘side-points’ raised throughout the activity and use these to form next steps too.
I always like to keep things positive (which is why I have the yellow hat section as close to the end as possible) and so I like to recap on the facts and the positives that can be taken from those. These positives should be highlighted in any comms that are distributed after the retrospective.
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