First, a link: From the site, the Retrospective Prime Directive:

Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.

Today I assisted a fellow-coach, Deborah Hartmann with a retrospective for a team that she is coaching. Deb is actually coaching two teams in a program and couldn’t be with them both at the same time. She introduced me to a very simple yet pleasant and effective method for retrospectives. I am not sure of its ultimate source, but it was introduced to Deb by Michael Spayd. Here is the basic outline:

Materials: pad of largish PostIt notes, large pad of poster-size paper, marker, pens for everyone

Set up in a space where everyone can see each other and the poster pad.

Step One: get everyone’s attention, organize around the table, turn off laptops, put cell phones on buzz, and state ground rules: no interrupting each other, and that this is not a discussion until you (the facilitator) say so
Step Two: display and recite the cardinal rule (above) and the purpose of the retrospective
Step Three: What Went Well?
– everyone takes three PostIts
– write down on the PostIts what went well (technical, team, organizational, process, general or specific)
– facilitator puts them on the poster in a way that they are not visible to the group
– facilitator reads them all out in random order with no comments
– facilitator gets the group to brainstorm (no criticism) on themes of what went well and writes them down for all to see
Step Four: What Needs Improvement?
– repeat Step Three
– vote on the importance of the themes and chose the three most important to discuss
– facilitate discussion to generate action items for making improvements based on the three most important themes

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