This sprint retrospective activity can be particularly useful when you feel your team is facing a lot of blockers/impediments. It helps teams identify the issues that they are facing and encourages them to develop a plan for tackling those issues.
- Write-on Wall / Whiteboard / Poster Paper
- Post-it notes & Pens
- 0-30 Minutes
- There isn’t any real need to set aside time for preparation with this activity but it could be useful to jot down some of the issues that may have been identified in previous retrospectives or daily stand-ups, even if they have been resolved, as these could be used to prompt the team if they are struggling for ideas.
- It is particularly useful to have some examples of issues that would fall into each different category as described below so that you can encourage discussion in each section.
- First, ask the team to write down any issues they feel the team faces or which they face individually.
- These should not just be a list of bugs. It should definitely include any issues the team are having in terms of their agile ways of working but could also include problems that the team are facing with the tools they have, the processes in place, the resource constraints etc.
- The issues should be written out individually on post-it notes.
- You should give the team enough time to each write down a few points as there will likely be duplicates.
- Whilst the team are writing-up their issues, draw three large circles on the wall/whiteboard which slightly overlap (like a Venn diagram but there should be no section where all three circles overlap – See Appendix)
- Inside the first circle, write the word ‘Control’. In the second, write ‘Influence’. In the third, write ‘Park’
- Once the team have finished, writing their issues, describe the classifications you have written in the circles:
- Control – Impediments for which the team can take action to remediate.
- Influence – Impediments for which the team can collaborate with or make a recommendation to an outside entity to remediate. For example, another team, group or line management.
- Park – Impediments over which the team has no ability to Control or Influence.
- In any order, invite each member of the team to introduce one of the issues they are raising.
- Do make sure that everyone in the team understands the issue that is being raised.
- As a team, discuss the issue and decide which category the issue belongs to.
- There may be some discussion about solutions to the problem which is OK if it is needed to identify which category the issue belongs to but you should not allow discussion on which of these solutions is the best. For example; someone might say that this issue could be resolved by asking the product owner from another team to provide a missing asset. This suggestion allows you to move the post-it note into the ‘Influence’ circle and that is all the discussion that is needed at this stage.
- As duplicate issues are raised, you can put them aside or (if there is plenty of room) pin them on top of the corresponding duplicate on the board.
- Once all of the issues have been placed on the board, focus on the issues in the ‘Control’ circle and discuss the possible remedial actions.
- Make sure these actions are captured clearly.
- Take a look at the issues that can be solved by influencing people outside of the team. Where possible, identify the key contact and, at very least, the minimum requirements from that person or team.
- In an ideal world, there wouldn’t be any issues that fall into the ‘Park’ category but if there are some issue which the team feel they cannot control or influence, then they shouldn’t spend any valuable time worrying about them in this retrospective.
- As the issues are discussed, you may find that new ways to solve the problem are identified that draw the issues out of the ‘Influence’ circle and towards the ‘Control’ circle. If this happens, place the post-it in the section where the ‘Control’ and ‘Influence’ circles overlap.
- You should now have a set of issues and some possible ‘fixes’ that are clearly grouped together.
- The team should agree the priority of the issues in the ‘Control’ circle first.
- Then look at the issues in the section that overlaps between ‘Control’ and ‘Influence’ and prioritise these.
- Then look at the issues in the ‘Influence’ circle and again prioritise them.
- You could prioritise each issue as you place it in the circles but as things move around, you may want to ensure they are in priority order at the end of the session (so you may not want to waste too much time sorting them into an order earlier on.
The purpose of this activity is to bring some order to a situation where there is a growing list of issues. It helps teams to understand the situation and gives them a clear list of priority issues that they can focus on.
Identifying issues that the team can take control of themselves helps with clearing up some of the ‘noise’ that comes with worrying about issues that are outside of your control. The issues in the ‘Influence’ circle are something that the Product Owner or the Scrum Master can take away to deal with (calling on the team if necessary) and if there are any issues in the ‘Park’ circle then the Product Owner can make a call on what to do.
Issues that fall into the overlap sections can be handled a little differently. If the team has some spare capacity, they might decide to tackle some of the issues that fall into the intersection of the ‘Control’ and ‘Influence’ circles so as to speed the process up.
A clear set of actions should be recorded following the discussion of each of the issues. These actions should be assigned to particular individuals and reviewed in the following retrospectives.
You should try to ensure that everyone in the team fully understands all the issues and that they are all clear on what their next steps are.
It is always good to end the retrospective on a positive note so you should make sure after this activity that the team feel better about the situation. Ask them how they feel about the issues in general as well as the issues they have to sort out individually. Ask them what they thought of the task and get some feedback for changing the format.
This diagram shows how the circles should overlap: