Sprint Retrospective Idea – Essentialism

Until now, Ive always used someone elses ideas for retrospectives. Thats fine, but Im always on the lookout to push myself, so wanted to see if I could come up with something of my own design.

Over the Christmas break, I read the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. There was one bit that stood out for me from a sprint retrospective idea standpoint. I think it aligns well with continual improvement and is hopefully a good way to increase team efficiency and velocity.

As with all the techniques I use, this technique is made up of the 5 stages of a retrospective.

Stage 1 Set the Stage

This is paraphrased, but tell the following story of the Herbie metaphor:

A scout group is out walking and need to get to their destination before sunset. It's clear they're not going to make it as one of them is too slow, let's call him Herbie.  Herbie constantly falls behind forcing the whole group to wait for him to catch up. The scout leader tries several things and then an idea hits him.

By putting Herbie at the front of the group and the others behind him, in order of speed, so the quickest walker is at the back, the leader can guarantee the group stays together as everyone can keep up with the person in front of her/him.

To speed the group up, the leader just has to concentrate on Herbie. The first thing he does is share out Herbie’s bag amongst the other hikers.  Herbie can now speed up and the whole group moves much more quickly.

Explain that the aim for the retrospective is to find our slowest task(s) and come up with ideas of how to make them quicker.

Stage 2 Gather Data

To encourage everyone in the team to contribute, break the team up into groups of 3. Ask each group to create a list of tasks that we do regularly and sort them based purely on speed, slowest first. Give the teams some time and then with everyone gathered around, combine these on a white board or table.

Ask for the slowest from each team, group similar activities, order them as a team and then move on to the next slowest working your way down their lists.

To get team consensus, ask for clarification from the whole team as to the order they think the tasks should go.

[N.B. Im expecting some issues in this step, but cant think of a way of making it smoother beyond getting the team to do it which seems lazy!]

Stage 3 Generate Insights

Now that the list is agreed, for the top 5 tasks, as a team answer the following questions:

  1. What makes the slow tasks slow?
  2. What makes the fast tasks fast?
  3. Are they essential?
  4. Yes/No answer to Can we improve them?
    1. If the answer is no, ask is there an alternative way of doing it. Again yes/no?

Stage 4 Decide What to Do

Pick the top 1 or 2 tasks that answered yes to number 3 and 4 above and come up with some suggestions to try for future iterations.

Stage 5 Close the Retrospective

Close the retrospective with a nice game, something like AHA! from Ret-O-Mat.


If youve got this far, Im hoping you can see the potential in the idea. Im going to give it a go tomorrow, and will report back with how it went.

Comments Section