Using Innovation Games as Retrospective Activities
About a month ago I purchased Innovation Games off of amazon… partly because I have a strong interest in facilitating interactive activities to learn and solve problems (which is what we do with retrospectives) and partly because I heard some subtle buzz about it. When I saw that another person on the retrospective mailing lists tried a variation of one of the games as a retrospective activity, I decided to try the same on my team as well.
In a couple previous retrospectives one of the things that people noted they’d like to do differently is have a retrospective that focused on technical issues as most of the subjects we discussed were collaboration, team dynamics, etc (which is a good thing!), so this retrospective had a very technical focus.
Here’s the agenda I cooked together:
- Set the Stage / Agree to Kerth’s Prime Directive
- Remember the Future
- Wrap Up with Three H’s
I started by welcoming everyone to the retrospective, gave an overview of the agenda and stated Kerth’s Prime Directive asking each person to agree to it.
I then moved onto the speedboat activity, drawing a speedboat on poster paper with waves, stating “we always want to move faster and let’s say that moving quickly is represented by a speedboat. Given our current system and tools, what are some of the anchors? That is, what are the things that slow us down?” I then drew some anchors from the boat, then some rocks along the bottom and continued “and further, what are some of the things in our codebase that don’t slow us down, but they’re a risk?” The team then spent the next 15 minutes jotting down issues related to design, code quality, etc. and posting them as anchors and risks and then we spent a quick 10 minutes discussing them in slight detail.
Moving on, I put a new poster paper up and told the team “Imagine that it’s June 2011. You just came into work, updated your working copy from revision control and get to work. What has changed that makes your life easier? What has changed to cut these anchors?” People placed several post-its up with changes that we often call “pie in the sky refactorings” that represented wide sweeping changes.
Once the posting died down I moved the post-its to the top of the page and drew a line across it and wrote June 2011 above it and December 2010 below it. “Now let’s think back six more months. What were some of the changes that took place that helped support these aspects of the system in June 2011?” Again another flurry of ideas that were closer to reality popped up. Now I drew another line and under it I wrote “June 2010″ and, with a few laughs from the group, stated “Now think even further back… what happened in June 2010 that allowed these changes as of December 2010 to come to fruition?”
More ideas, some even doable popped up. We had some small discussion and then finally, on a new poster paper I wrote “Right Now” at the top and asked “So, coming out of this retrospective, what can we do that will help us support these changes next month?” The ideas were small and simple to implement, along the lines of “replace Integers representing years with a Year object” and “remove dependency on BarFactory from FooRepository “.
We then wrapped up Three H’s… a quick survey of what Helped the retrospective, what Hindered it, and what people Hypothesized could improve it in the future. Overall we were quite pleased with the outcome and I’m interested in mixing in ideas from Innovation Games in future retrospectives.