Retrospective Experience – 6 Thinking Hats

To make the team think a different way during the retrospective I decided to try 6 Thinking Hats. We’re used to saying what went well and what didn’t, so I thought this would be a good way to get some different discussions going.

I was a little nervous beforehand as the description warns about something I’ve been struggling with in previous sprints, namely facilitating rather than controlling. So at least the technique forced me to deal with that head on!

“Tip: The facilitator should try to stay out of the circle and try to avoid the participants talking directly to them”

I was also a little worried that I was flooding the team with lots of new techniques, so we used ESVP as a check-in exercise like we did a few sprints ago. This not only did the job of getting everyone off their feet, but we had a much better split of positive over negative categories this time, so it gave me a nice boost too.

Gather Data, Generate Insights and Decided What To Do

Things started slowly as we didn’t really know what we were doing (see Personal Retrospective below) and we’re not used to Blue hat thinking, but once we got onto topics we felt comfortable with the meeting progressed well.

I found facilitation to be quite hard to begin with, as it seemed like the team were stopping to see what I wrote on the board, but again, that seemed to improve as time went on.

Finally, I won’t go into the actual details, but the meeting ended on a really positive note and there seemed to be a real air of optimism for the next sprint. It will be interesting to see if that’s something this technique brings, or we just had a good retrospective. It was certainly more noticeable than previous retrospectives, but that could be coincidence.

Summary

The exercise started slowly with the team talking directly to me, but as things progressed and we got onto topics we’re more comfortable with – what went well, what went badly – time started to fly.

I’m lucky as I have several strong characters who are more than willing to lead such a debate (which could be a bad thing if they dominate), but if I didn’t, I’m sure there are ways around that.

Overall, I think it’s a good exercise to conduct and one I’ll certainly use again.

Personal Retrospective

What went well?

  • The team produced some good insights, which is a good sign we can become more self-organising;

What could I have done better?

  • A team member mentioned that the strictness of the hats meant he couldn’t/didn’t say something when he thought of it and then forgot. I could provide pen and paper or perhaps tell everyone that than anything could be mentioned and if it’s not allowed we’ll note it for later;
  • I don’t think the time slots of 10 minutes needs to be a strict rule. Next time, we’ll treat it as a time-box, rather than “we must talk for 10 minutes”.

What should I not do again?

  • I’m not convinced I explained the hats particularly well, so next time I’ll try to give examples of each before starting the exercise.
  • Related to that, I didn’t use the results from the previous hats to guide the conversation for subsequent hats particularly well. During the write up I noticed a few facts we didn’t discuss.

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