This sprint retrospective activity is a fun way of identifying a team’s strengths and weaknesses and is based on the ‘Cool Wall’ segment of the the TV show ‘Top Gear’. In this activity, various aspects of a scrum team’s practices are presented by the scrum master and the team vote on how ‘cool’ they feel they are when it comes to that specific topic.
- Whiteboard / Write-on Wall / Poster Paper
- Post-it notes
- Cards (Record cards or any pieces of card roughly A6 sized)
- 1-2 hours (although there are ways to cut this down and the resources produced can be used again)
- As the scrum master / facilitator, you need to prepare a number of ‘scrum practice’ cards e.g: ‘Daily Scrum Meetings’ or ‘User Story Estimation’ (See the full list of examples at the end of this post)
- You can use the suggested list below but you should only include things which are relevant to your team. For example, if your team is spread across different continents, you might want to discuss working across different time zones. If they aren’t, don’t bother.
- Using cards with Blu-tack rather than Post-it notes means that you can use the practice cards again but if these are not available or you want to see how this activity works first, Post-it notes will work fine.
- You could also prepare the ‘Cool Wall’ itself by creating posters (ideally at least A3 sized) for each of the four categories; (from left-to-right) Seriously Uncool, Uncool, Cool, Sub-zero.
- Using posters for ‘The Cool Wall’ not only saves on preparation time if you want to run this activity again but it means you can take them down and back to your desk if you want to later write-up the results or display the board elsewhere (This is useful if you share meeting rooms and are in a rush to get out).
- If blank posters aren’t available, you can simply write the categories on a whiteboard / write-on wall and it will work just the same.
- For each member of the team, you should also prepare voting cards. Giving the teams cards to vote not only stops everyone shouting-out, it also helps avoid the problem of people anchoring their thoughts against what others have said.
- If you don’t want to spend any time preparing (other than thinking-up the list of scrum practices) you can just take a list into the retrospective and write the activity on a whiteboard / write-on wall.
- One card at a time, the scrum master / facilitator presents the scrum practice asking: “How cool are we at…[this]”.
- The team use the voting cards to say where they feel the team is from ‘Seriously Uncool’ to ‘Sub-zero’.
- You can allow some very brief discussion about votes but where there is conflict between ‘Cool’ and ‘Sub-zero’, its probably best to move on quickly and get every card on the board so that you can focus on the areas that need most attention.
- If the votes are even between two categories, its fine to place the card on the line.
- Any comments of particular interest should be recorded on the board or on another sheet for further discussion later on.
- Once all of the cards have been placed on the wall you can start to assess the results.
- You should first spend some time recognising why you are ‘Cool’ or ‘Sub-zero’ at certain tasks and then move on to the aspects of your scrum practices that were voted as being ‘Uncool’ or ‘Seriously Uncool’.
- For each card, moving left-to-right, you should discuss the ways in which you could improve that aspect of your team’s scrum practices and clear actions should be recorded and assigned to the appropriate member of the team.
The purpose of this activity is to ensure that all aspects of a team’s scrum practices (or at least a good amount of them) are examined. Its quite common for teams to focus on the most obvious areas that they think they are struggling with and for the same things to come up all the time. Whilst the most problematic areas are the ones that should be tackled, if they are not being fixed over a couple of sprints then it may be that there is another problem that is actually the root cause which is not being addressed.
Sometimes people feel there is an issue but don’t speak-up because they are shy or they think its only an issue for them. Sometimes there are issues that everyone knows but that are avoided by the team because they don’t know how to tackle it or they fear it looks bad on them. This activity helps to identify these types of issues.
A clear set of actions should be recorded following discussion on each of the areas of concern. 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.
You should end on a positive note by coming back to the positive aspects of your teams scrum practices as highlighted on the ‘Cool’ and ‘Sub-zero’ sections of the wall. These points should be recorded and shared with the team after the sprint retrospective, perhaps under a heading of “We are cool at…” or similar.
Here is a list of example aspects of scrum practices and general team ‘ways-of-working’ that you could present for the ‘Cool Wall’ voting:
- Daily Scrum Meetings / Stand-ups
- Sprint Planning
- Sprint Reviews
- Backlog Grooming
- Sprint Retrospectives
- Writing User Stories
- Acceptance Criteria
- Releasing Frequently
- Source Code Management
- Continuous Improvement
- Test Driven Design
- Working Across Time zones
- User Story Estimation
- Completing Stories Without Regressions the First Time Round
- Managing the Scrum Board / Kanban Board
- Automated Testing