Friday, January 13, 2017

Happy New Year: A forward-looking Retrospective approach

Most retrospective techniques focus on analyzing past events, leading to introspection of transpired events. I have created the "Happy New Year" technique to help teams transcend the past and orient towards the future. I will introduce it to you for your own perusal:

A look at the clairvoyance Retro

Step 1- Prepare


In the first step, create a 2x2 matrix and entitle it with the period the team should address.
Now, in January, it's a decent idea to take the new year. Taking the "next release" the next fiscal quarter may be exactly as valid, it depends on how far ahead you want to look.

Good and Bad

Entitle the columns with "Good" (fortunate) and "Bad" (unfortunate). Now, I've used a four-leaf-clover and a "Friday 13th" (as today is just that day) to depict these, you can feel free to use your own.
The idea is that in the left column, the team should enter events that will help the team - and in the right column, events that become setbacks.

Prediction and Wish

The rows are entitled "Prediction" and "Wish". I used a crystal ball for the predictions and a magic genie lamp to depict them.
The idea is that in the upper row, the team should enter events that are fairly likely to occur - and in the lower row, events that the team hopes, even though there is no evidence that they will happen.

The four squares

The upper-left square is "Predict-Good". This is for upcoming events that the team looks forward, such as "We get Magic Leap on our desks".

The upper-right square is "Predict-Bad". Transpiring events the team would prefer to avoid, if possible - such as "A competitor takes over some of our customers".

The lower-left square is "Wish-Good". This is what the team might wish for - such as "Our product wins the NetGeeks award".

The final, lower-right square, "Wish-Bad", requires a bit of further explanation: Who would wish for bad things? Here, we are looking for events that will severely disrupt our team/organization with an opportunity for massive change. For example "Our cloud hoster goes bankrupt" would result in massive business loss, yet it would be a great opportunity to discover a better hosting strategy.

Step 2 - Collect

Let the team think

Instruct: "For each of these four scenarios - name specific events that you can think of. Try to find at least 1, and no more than 2, items for each of the boxes."
Give the team 5 minutes of silence so that each team member has enough time write their own sticky notes.

Post and Introduce

After the time is up, let the team members post their sticky notes on the board, introducing with a few sentences what the item is. At this time, do not discuss further implications or potential solutions.


Potentially, the team will come up with items which are not events, such as "We learn something new" - which is more of an ongoing process than something that you could stick on a calendar and validate with a yes/no hypothesis test. Let the author re-formulate these into an event (e.g., "We attend a HTML class")


Any duplicate notes should be removed. 


Let the team members quickly discuss whether the notes are in the right segment - are the predictions more like wishes, are the wishes actually coming true already?

Step 3 - Prioritize

You can use dot-voting or any other technique to let the team select a few topics for further exploration.

Hint: In some cases, it's useful to de-scope elements from one (or more) box, such as "Predict-Good", if your intention is more to challenge the team.

Step 4 - Discuss

Depending on the box, the discussion questions look different.

Predictions: "What will we do after this happens?" - and: "How can we ensure/avoid this?"
Wishes: "Why would we want this to happen?" - and: "What will come out of that?"

It's a good idea to write down the key points of the discussion for reference.
Discuss one or two items - and jot down the key points.

Step 5 - Refocus

The discussion will most likely yield multiple strands. In order to elaborate specific actions, you will need to refocus by shutting down all but one or two of them. Again, you can use a technique like dot-voting to let the team autonomously decide with which item to proceed.
Limit the things you want to work on

Step 6 - Propose

In the final step, the team should decide on a way forward, elaborating specific actions to steer into the desired direction.
Topics which are long-term relevant are often not resolved with a single change - potentially, a series of changes need to be made which take some time. If this is the case, simply create a timeline and discuss what you want to do when.

Create a timeline until when ou want to reach your goal.
Make sure people take responsibility.

So, that's it. Have fun, good luck - I wish you great new insights.

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