Stop complaining and start learning! Retrospectives that drive real change

Good retrospectives (you know, the ones that actually lead to real change?) rest on three pillars:

* people,
* process, and
* follow-through


What makes retrospectives so difficult is that if any of these three pillars starts to crack, it's very difficult for the retrospective to be a success.

Ultimately, getting the right people in the room, utilizing a good process to facilitate the conversation, and following-through on the learning outcomes depend on having an organizational culture that encourages learning, transparency, feedback loops, and continuous improvement.

If this sounds like your company already, then great! This talk is not for you.

For everyone else, join me to explore how effective retrospectives can break a downward cycle of disillusionment and malcontent and transform you and your team into engines of learning and growth.

 
 

Outline/Structure of the Talk

I've given similar talks on numerous occasions, usually in front of packed rooms, and it's always warmly received. A few times I've even heard it was "the best talk of the entire conference". Please see George Dinwiddie's tweet about this presentation at Agile DC: "@ds_horowitz Killing it on retrospectives in an overflowing room. #AgileDC".

I can fit this talk into 45 to 90 minute slots. With 45 minutes, here's what it would look like:

[3 min] - Intro Game. We will play a little game to warm up the crowd, get everyone laughing, and engaged. It also serves to show how you can "set the stage" at the beginning of a good retrospective. The game involves an auction of a $20 bill. The catch is that while the person with the highest bid wins the $20, the person who ends up with the second highest bid will receive nothing, but will still have to "pay" their bid to the auctioneer (obviously no money will actually exchange hands). This sets up interesting incentives, and given the lack of time to think it through, usually ends up with a final bid over $20. It's funny, and it works every time.

[2 min] Good vs Bad Retros. Unfortunately, many retrospectives in the real world are simply opportunities for people to complain, and those retros rarely (if ever) lead to true continuous improvement opportunities. I will explain why that happens and how it creates a "Vicious Cycle of Retrospective Disillusionment" (bad retrospectives lead to more bad retrospectives, and it's hard to break out of the cycle once it starts).

[30 min] Retrospective Triangle of Success. Good retrospectives depend on three things: 1) getting the right people in the room, 2) following a good facilitated process to encourage participation and to focus on the most important topics, and 3) effective follow-through so that ideas turn into action. Here's a bit more detail on each:

People. I will spend 10 minutes discussing the issue of who you should invite to the retrospective in the first place. When is it appropriate to include management? Stakeholders? The PO? Getting the right people in the room is all about balancing the need for psychological safety (including only the people you already trust) with effective discussion (including people you might not trust who have valuable insights and ideas to share).

Process. I will spend 10 minutes going over how to use facilitation to encourage participation in the retrospective. In particular, I will briefly go over Diana Larsen's and Esther Derby's 5 phases approach. I will also discuss how rotating the role of the facilitator (both within the team and also across teams) can help spread knowledge and improve everyone's facilitation skills. Lastly, I will talk about when it's okay to not use facilitation at all (the 30-second "reflex" retro).

Follow-through. I will spend 10 minutes talking about why if you don't focus on follow-through, even if you have the right people in the room and follow a good process, your retrospective was a failure and waste of time. I will go over what you can do to encourage follow-through, namely: 1) use an experimental mindset instead of a "fix it" mindset, 2) if an impediment is outside your team's control, don't just complain about it, broadcast it to your organization and try to get help, 3) how to effectively "radiate" your learnings/hypotheses, action items, and impediments to the rest of your organization without fear of retribution. I will also go over how having someone regularly go over the organizational impediments coming out of retrospectives across teams can help retrospectives lead to organizational improvements not just localized team improvements.

[5 min] Closing. In summary, to break the Retrospective Cycle of Disillusionment, you need to get some small wins coming out of your retrospectives. Once people start to see how retrospectives really are leading to improvements, they will be more engaged in the retrospective process and more apt to participate. And the best way to do this is to get the right people in the room, to follow a good facilitated process, and to follow-through at a team and organizational level.

[5 min] Q&A. I will give participants the opportunity to ask questions.

Learning Outcome

Attendees will walk away with:

  • How to create a safe environment for brainstorming, collaboration, and retrospectives
  • How to balance personalities within the group
  • When anonymous feedback is necessary… and when it’s not
  • The role of ongoing feedback in continuous improvement
  • How breaking the mindset around retrospectives can positively impact the ongoing employee engagement crisis

Attendees will also gain an understanding of the pitfalls of traditional employee engagement tactics and how to overcome challenges associated with these efforts by deploying agile retrospectives to create a safe, honest and productive environment for teams to deliver their best work.

Target Audience

Anyone who facilitates (or participates!) in retrospectives and is looking for ways to improve the experience.

Prerequisites for Attendees

Participants should have at least some hands-on experience with retrospectives in order to understand the challenges of retrospecting successfully. No other knowledge is needed, other than an interest in truly effective retrospectives, learning mindsets, and continuous improvement.

schedule Submitted 2 months ago

Public Feedback

comment Suggest improvements to the Speaker

  • Liked Alex Sloley
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Alex Sloley - Dammit Jim, I’m an Agile Coach, not a Doctor!

    Alex Sloley
    Alex Sloley
    Alex Sloley
    schedule 1 month ago
    Sold Out!
    45 Mins
    Talk
    Beginner

    Just what exactly does an Agile Coach do? Coaches may vary in their response to this question. I would like to think that most Agile Coaches, with some variation, would be fairly consistent in how we perceive our role. However, some companies or orgs or people probably interpret the role of the Agile Coach in ways that coaches never intended.

    Let’s explore some of the things that Agile Coaches have been asked to do! Are these antipatterns? Doing what needs to be done? This session will delve into the topic of the role of the Agile Coach and highlight potential challenges and possible solutions.

  • Liked Dana Pylayeva
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Dana Pylayeva - Journey without fear. Leading your teams to high-performance.

    90 Mins
    Workshop
    Executive
    Psychological Safety has been identified as a #1 condition for creating high-performing teams by Google’s Project Aristotle. Yet, many organizations today find themselves being affected by fear in the workplace. It manifests itself in employee's disengagement, lack of innovation, toxic working environment with gossip, rumour and massive resignations (‘’best people are leaving”).
    How can we start taking the first steps away from the culture of fear and towards a culture of psychological safety?
    Join this interactive session to experiment with a new "Fear in the Workplace" and "Safety in the Workplace" games (designed by the speaker) and start these difficult conversations in a fun way. Experience a number of safety enhancers that can help you, your teams and your organization on this journey.
    Highly experiential, this session is designed with elements of Training from the Back of the Room and includes a number of Liberating Structures. It brings together “tried and true” practices from the years of coaching teams in US, Canada, Ireland and Japan.
    Join in to learn by doing and bring back a set of practices designed to significantly improve psychological safety in teams and organizations.

  • Liked Angie Doyle
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Angie Doyle / Talia Lancaster - 3... 2... 1... We have Sprint-Off

    90 Mins
    Workshop
    Beginner

    Getting new teams to work together is hard. Really. Hard.

    Is it because there is so much hype around new Agile teams? Or is it because there is such a focus on “doing things right” (or “doing” Agile right), that we forget about the people actually doing the work? Regardless of the reason, before we can change the way people work... we need to focus on the things that are important for teamwork to work!

    We believe that the key to high-performance teams is creating an intentional culture that respects and embraces diversity - whether it be race, gender, class, culture, age, beliefs, language, skills or background. So join us as we explore the Team Canvas – sort of like a Business Model Canvas for teamwork - covering nine essential teamwork elements:

    • Purpose - Why we are doing what we are doing?
    • People & Roles - What are our names, roles, and responsibilities?
    • Common goals - What do we as a group want to achieve together?
    • Personal goals - What do I as an individual want to achieve?
    • Team values - What do we really stand for and believe in?
    • Needs and expectations - What do each of us need to be successful in a diverse team?
    • Rules & Activities - How do we communicate and keep everyone up to date?
    • Strengths & Assets - What skills do we have in the team?
    • Weaknesses & Risks - What are the weaknesses we have, as an individual and as a team?

    During this session, we walk through our agenda for team lift-offs, facilitation posters and preparation work required, materials needed, and facilitation tips and tricks. All packaged in a handy pocket guide, that you can use to explore tried and tested techniques for each essential element. You also have an opportunity to practice some of these techniques during the session.

    Get ready to lift-off your team in T-minus 3... 2... 1...

  • Liked Geof Ellingham
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Geof Ellingham - Agile in Wonderland: the Inner Workings of the Agile Coach.

    Geof Ellingham
    Geof Ellingham
    Chair
    Agile Business Consortium
    schedule 1 month ago
    Sold Out!
    90 Mins
    Workshop
    Advanced

    Agile coaching is big business - there are more agile coaches in the world than business coaches, but we're only just starting to scratch the surface of what agile coaches really do.

    Geof has been researching the moment-by-moment lived experience of agile coaches for the last 12 months to explore what makes us tick, and what gets in our way.

    Come to this highly interactive workshop to find out what Geof learned from his research and what it means for the training, support and supervision of agile coaches - and then to start sharing your own experience and practising the skills you need to move from working with your teams as if they were machines to coaching with curiosity.

  • Liked Anna Obukhova
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Anna Obukhova - Biology of Agile Leader

    Anna Obukhova
    Anna Obukhova
    Agile Coach
    ScrumTrek
    schedule 1 month ago
    Sold Out!
    45 Mins
    Tutorial
    Intermediate

    Agile Leadership has its unique flavour of natural leadership, when power is not given with a title but taken by a person based on his/her inner abilities. We use Servant Leadership or Powerless Leader to emphasise this difference. If we look deeper into the biology and neuroscience of leadership we might find really unexpected things – that Agile leaders are the ones that are recognised by nature and we unconsciously can select these people from the crowd. How to become this type of person?

    To be an effective Agile leader we need to understand:

    • What makes a leader: Leader-Leader Agile Model

    • The difference between a leader and dominant behaviour, why leaders look younger and more active (on hormonal level)

    • Hormones and neuroscience of a natural leader (with some cases and practice)

    • Leadership differences and similarities of Scrum Master and Product Owner

    • Simple (4 words) yet powerful mindset change to become a natural leader that people will follow

  • Liked Sam Bowtell
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Sam Bowtell - Discover Your Leadership Agility

    90 Mins
    Workshop
    Beginner

    Are you born as an Agile leader or can you develop or pivot your leadership style to be one? This talk will uncover ten Agile leadership attributes in a fun and engaging way, gives participants an opportunity to reflect on their own capabilities and then self focus areas for further development of their leadership capability

  • Liked Kathy G. Berkidge
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Kathy G. Berkidge - #MindfulAgile - Applying Mindfulness in Agile Teams

    480 Mins
    Workshop
    Beginner

    Collaboration is at the heart of healthy agile teams. Teams that collaborate well are better enabled to deliver innovative solutions that not only meet customer and business expectations, but exceed them. However, collaboration is much more than just communication and coordination. Highly collaborative teams are inclusive and open to new concepts, where individuals feel valued not only for the contributions they make, but also for bringing their different ideas and perspectives to the table.

    Mindful agile is the perfect combination of the agile mindset with mindfulness that enables teams and organisations to build an agile culture that truly embodies the agile values and principles. It allows teams to work together with greater cooperation to truly collaborate, overcome difficulties, share ideas, and challenge each other without falling into chaos and conflict.

    This workshop will help you deeply understand the agile mindset and how mindfulness enables you to truly embody the agile principles. Mindfulness enhances interactive communications to allow you collaborate more effectively. Through mindfulness, you will better understand your customers’ needs to produce solutions that they love. Mindfulness enables you to think more clearly resulting in better decision making and creativity that drive innovation. You will gain a practical understanding of why mindfulness is the essential ingredient for creating an effective agile culture.

  • Liked Anjali D leon
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Anjali D leon - Careers in the Age of Accelerations: A Well Crafted Roadmap or A Drunkard’s Walk?

    90 Mins
    Workshop
    Intermediate
    The rules of the game have changed! Studies indicate that by the year 2030, half of jobs will be ones that do no exist today and half the jobs of today will no longer exist. The volatility, uncertainty, and ambiguity ushered in by this age of accelerations extends not just to our environment, politics, and communities, but our organizations as well. In response, organizations are undergoing a massive transformation in technology, structure, culture, and values - fundamentally changing not only what we work on, but how we work, and who we work with.
    Where does this leave our careers? If answering the question ‘Where do you see yourself five years from now?’ leaves you stuck, uncertain, confused and/or anxious, you are not alone.
    Join me for “Careers in the Agile of Accelerations”. During this workshop, we will look back at your career and look ahead at organizational and cultural trends, and understand the skills and capabilities for new and emerging roles. Build the awareness and confidence to take control and navigate a career aligned to the future of work and guided by your Ikigai (reason for being).
  • Liked Shane Hastie
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Shane Hastie - The Ethics of Agile Coaching

    45 Mins
    Talk
    Advanced

    Agile Coaching is currently hit and miss – there are no guidelines and standards around what good coaching is and active harm is being done by some unethical coaches. Having a voluntary Code of Conduct will not prevent this from happening but it could raise visibility around what behaviors should be expected of a professional, ethical agile coach.

    In this interactive session Shane presents some ideas around what a Code of Conduct for Agile Coaching could be and draws from the participants areas they feel should be included in such a code.

  • Liked Alex Sloley
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Alex Sloley - Insight Coaching – Nonverbal Communication in Coaching

    Alex Sloley
    Alex Sloley
    Alex Sloley
    schedule 1 month ago
    Sold Out!
    90 Mins
    Workshop
    Intermediate

    The craft of Agile Coaching fundamentally requires deep, insightful, meaningful communication. In everyday execution, this typically involves a coach and the coachees having a conversation, or dialog. However, there are other ways that an Agile Coach and their coachees can connect – nonverbal communication.

    Explore the different aspects of nonverbal communication in the domain of the Agile Coach! This workshop overviews nonverbal communication in Agile Coaching and provides a starting point for developing this critical skill.

  • Liked Jakub Jurkiewicz
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Jakub Jurkiewicz - Agile Coaching Dōjō - space for deliberate practise

    Jakub Jurkiewicz
    Jakub Jurkiewicz
    Agile Coach
    Air New Zealand
    schedule 2 months ago
    Sold Out!
    90 Mins
    Workshop
    Intermediate

    A dōjō (道場) is a hall or space for immersive learning or meditation. This is traditionally in the field of martial arts, but has been seen increasingly in other fields, such as meditation and software development (and now also Agile Coaching!).

    It will be a space for the immersive practice of coaching. Imagine a place where you can come and try out new coaching techniques, get feedback, give feedback and learn from your successes and failures? This is what coaching dōjō is about!

    Coaching is one of the four main skills of every Agile Coach (along mentoring, teaching and facilitating) and for many of us coaching is the hardest skill to master. Way too often we go back to the mentoring mode, giving pieces of advice and sharing our points of view. Guess what, asking questions and giving space to reflect and come up with actions is hard, it's extremely hard! That's why we want to create a space for deliberate practice of coaching.

    The coaching dōjō will be very to the Code Katas exercises knows from the software development world. We will come together, work in groups of 3s, one person will be a coach, one will be a coachee and one will be an observer. We will run 3 rounds of 10-15 minutes coaching so everyone will get a chance to be a coach. At the end of the round, the coach will hear feedback from the coachee and from the observer. In every session (this will be the 1st one) we will work with different challenges and/or different coaching techniques.

  • 90 Mins
    Workshop
    Beginner

    This Workshop will help you understand why emotional culture matters to building a more high performing and connected team in a more human and empathetic way.

    One of the lesser known and least discussed parts of organisational culture is the emotional culture of an organisation. Research shows the way people feel at work (or the way they don’t feel) has a significant impact on the way they behave, motivation, commitment, creativity, satisfaction, decision making and collaboration.

    In this highly interactive workshop, we will provide you with a way to bring your teams together to talk about the emotional culture of your organisation. We will learn how we explore both those emotions that your employees want to feel to be successful and those that they don't want to feel. From here, you, as a leader but also as a team, can decide what behaviours you want to support and cultivate and what you need to avoid and manage to create the culture you want.

    So far we have run tens of emotional culture workshops, and the results have been stunning. We provide you with a facilitation framework, which can be used with leaders, teams and individuals to talk about emotions and culture in the workplace. It gives people the freedom to participate, be vulnerable and share what they feel and how they want to feel, allowing your people and leaders to take actions and genuinely start to shape the culture.

    Unfortunately, most companies pay little attention to how their people are or should be feeling at work. Many organisations don't support the expression and discussion of emotions at work. Showing emotion at work can be seen as "unprofessional". But emotion drives human behaviour. So come and learn about why emotion matters to your teams and how you can have conversations about emotions and their impact on your teams in a new, fun and engaging way.

  • Liked Frank Vassallo
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Frank Vassallo - Unleashing Agile Stories with Liberating Structures

    Frank Vassallo
    Frank Vassallo
    Agile Practice Lead
    SA Water
    schedule 2 months ago
    Sold Out!
    90 Mins
    Workshop
    Beginner

    An interactive and engaging session where we will prioritise a backlog of agile stories and dive deeper into the tales that matter to you, then and there...we may even create some in real time!

    As a practitioner and someone passionate about bringing the best out of myself and those around me, these experiences will share knowledge, learning and concepts from real life practice with a number of organisations and teams adopting and maturing agile ways of working.

    Initial product backlog:

    - Anarchy, Scrum and Kanban.

    - Go on then, just change your mindset!

    - Aye, it's just commonsense.

    - Now that was a great agile team!

    - The Super Retrospective

    - Here is your 'pizza', now self manage

    - Key lessons from the transformation trenches

    - WaterScrumBanFall - really!

    - I'm a project manager, get me outta here

    and a little bit of improv from me and you will go a long way to a rewarding shared experience.

  • Liked Andrew Murphy
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Andrew Murphy - My job as a software engineer is not to write code

    45 Mins
    Talk
    Beginner

    Many software engineers are lead into the false assumption that we are hired to write code. This talk challenges that perception and discusses the real reason we are paid to turn up to work every day.

    Coding is fun, but we are paid to solve problems.

    I will try and convince you that you can add more value, and have more fun, by concentrating on the problem, not the code.

  • Elijah Eilert
    Elijah Eilert
    Innovation Coach
    Lean Startup Coach
    schedule 2 months ago
    Sold Out!
    90 Mins
    Workshop
    Intermediate

    Traditional accounting and funding processes are no longer sufficient in dealing with today's fast-changing environment. Innovation Accounting fundamentally ties learning and money together. It is a framework designed to generate and capture information about new ways to create, deliver and capture value in the most cost-effective and quickest way. It holds entrepreneurs and managers accountable against relevant metrics.

    Statistics is the ‘science’ of extracting the most information from the least data. Innovation Accounting puts these principals at the heart of innovation management. Innovation Accounting uses the right information at the right time to make better decisions about product, investment/resource allocation, people and strategy.

    This session will touch on some of the core challenges of innovation management and provides a high-level introduction to the subject of innovation accounting.

  • Liked Sandra Colhando
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Sandra Colhando - Moving from Mindset to Mindflex in an Agile environment

    45 Mins
    Workshop
    Advanced

    A critical lever for a successful agile professional is the Mind. The ability for an individual to bring awareness to their ‘mindtraps’ and deal with failure by picking on the lessons and moving fast is the single most attractive talent for the future. Find out what’s in store inside the mind and use tools to self-organise and look forward to change – every time!

  • Liked Andrew Murphy
    keyboard_arrow_down

    Andrew Murphy - How to communicate anything to anyone and see a real impact - communicating effectively and efficiently

    90 Mins
    Workshop
    Intermediate

    Everyone thinks they are a good at communication, but... how many times have you been at an event talking to someone you really didn’t want to talk to? Been sold to by someone who didn’t get that you weren’t interested?

    These are examples of bad communication and they all have a few things in common, they weren’t efficient and they weren’t effective

    .They didn’t go into the communication with the right mindset and the right preparation

    Also, sorry to say it, but your own communications probably suck too. But after this talk you’ll have a leg up on your competition: you’ll know your communication sucks... and you know how to fix it.