Luis Goncalves

How to start an effective Scrum Sprint Retrospective using Constellation exercise

by Luís Gonçalves
Scrum Sprint Retrospective

HOW TO START AN EFFECTIVE SCRUM SPRINT RETROSPECTIVE USING CONSTELLATION EXERCISE

This post is dedicated to a topic: “How to start an effective Retrospective”. This exercise can be found in the book: “Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives”, a book written by Ben Linders and me with the foreword from Esther Derby. The book can be downloaded by free in LeanPub.com or InfoQ.com, please download it and spread it within your colleagues.

To have a successful Scrum Sprint Retrospective, we need to have an interesting “opener”; we must set a stage, allowing a team to feel comfortable to speak freely about any topic. This post describes the constellation exercise which is not the first time I write about it; you can find my previous post here, and my Scrum Alliance article here.

If you are interested in getting some extra Agile Retrospectives exercises, I created a blog post with dozens of Agile Retrospectives Ideas, check them and see if you find something interesting.

What you can expect to get out of this technique
This is a great exercise for people who do not like or do not feel comfortable sharing their opinion/feelings openly, at least in the beginning of the project when they still do not trust everyone completely. Due to the cultural backgrounds or the personality of team members, answering some questions can be difficult for some. But this exercise can help because people do not need to speak to answer questions. Another good advantage is the fact this exercise reveals what all team thinks about a certain topic without the need for early discussions.

When you would use this technique
I believe this exercise is super simple and does not require any special occasion. It can be used as an opener for any retrospective. Although, it might be suitable for situations where the Scrum Master/Agile Coach feels that the team does not have the same opinion about the practices applied within the team. This is a good exercise to reveal individuals´ opinion, allowing everyone to have a common understanding about what the others think. This is important because team members must be aligned. For example, if some team members feel their level of automation is right, but others do not share the same opinion, centre there is no way team will work together to improve this topic.

How to do it
We begin the Scrum Sprint Retrospective with welcoming team members and setting an affirmative goal for the session. This is where the “Constellation” exercise can be used.

Start making an open space, move tables and chairs around, if needed. Put an object on the floor and explain to a team that this object centre of the Universe and kindly ask them to form a circle around it. Explain them that you will read some statements, and while you are reading the statements, you would like them to move closer to or farther away from the “Universe” depending on how true the statement is for them. So, if they really agree with the statement, they should move to the “center of the Universe” as close as possible. If they do not agree with the statement, they should step back away from the center. Once you read a question, let the team observe the “system”, as Lyssa said, “Let the system reveal itself”.

You can use any topics like:

  • How mature is our continuous integration process?
  • How mature is our automated testing process?
  • Etc

Just choose a topic and ask several questions related to that topic and let them see where they stand. Like I said, they do not need to give verbal answers at all, they answer with the movements by showing their position in the “system”. You could do several questions until you feel a good vibe from the team. To benefit fully from this exercise, you could ask the team in the end: “Where were you surprised with the shape?” and let them talk to each other a bit.

As a next step, you can, for example, ask the guys to form small groups and run a normal retrospective exercise, like fore example THIS one. After that just agree with the team who will take which responsibility and close the retrospective.

One good thing of this exercise is the fact that you can actually do it virtually, of course having co-located people helps, but its not mandatory. You can use tools, like for example lino.

What do you think about this way to set the stage for a Retrospective? Do you think it is useful?

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Luís Gonçalves

About Luís Gonçalves

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+LuisGonçalves1979

Luis Gonçalves is an Entrepreneur, Author & International Keynote Speaker. He works with Senior Executives to implement his ‘Organisational Mastery’ system so they can greatly increase the effectiveness and efficiency of their organisations; enabling them to become recognised and highly rewarded Leaders.

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