Team-centered user story retrospective

April 13, 2017 · Retrospective Agile Scrum Team

Each year I experience the same issue, let's call it the "Xmas Reset". Everyday is an eating festival. Family and friends get the best of us. The holidays seem to hit us behind the head. Come January, we've all forgotten our passwords and struggle to start over. Teamwork is also staling for a while. As if a few days of forming, storming and norming are a must to get to the performing state that was in December.

I found a trick to ease that process, I call it the "letter to your future self". And this works wonder in retrospectives. Ask your team to imagine what the start will be like in January. Let them picture this struggling to start over. Then ask them to write down what they would like to remember. Gather the best practices they would like to start using again after the break. Then let them write those down in the form of a letter to their future self. Lock it in an envelope and forget about it until January. Then comes the first days of the new year, put on your Santa-hat and deliver them their very own letter...

As you've noticed, we're closer from Easter than Xmas right now. So why the heck am I writing this?

We spent the last months adding people to our Scrum teams and getting them up to speed. Now we are finally ready to re-roll all our teams and end up with one more than before. As a final retrospective before the split, I decided to re-use and adapt this format. Let's call it the "Team-centered user story retrospective".

The idea is similar, let the team write down best practices for themselves. First each team member brainstormed this for himself for a few minutes. Then they worked in pairs consolidating both their lists into one. Finally they grouped into two pools of 4 and consolidated their input again. For this last round, I added one more constraint: use the user story format to write down your statements:

As a X, I want Y so that Z.

To end up with it, we made a battle with two speakers or reading their "team-centered user story" out loud.

We ended up with a very nice backlog of best practices for when our teams will start in their new configuration. Those them will also use to write down their work agreements and definition of done. I hope.

Have you ever done this before? How did it go?

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