Retrospective Experience – Appreciative Inquiry

It’s been over 6 months since I started using different retrospective techniques with my current team and although we are a long way from repeating the same thing over and over, I was beginning to worry about stagnation. A great deal of the techniques I’ve been using have essentially been “what are we doing wrong?”. I wanted something that was “what are we doing right”.

A quick bit of googling lead me to a post titled Appreciative Inquiry Retrospectives by Doug Bradbury. The following quote really stood out:

“Are you discouraged and pessimistic about all the problems that your team has?”

We had our fair share of problems in the lead up to Christmas and the more I read, the better it sounded. A bit more digging and one of the search results was from one of my favourite tools, Retr-O-Mat. Turns out Remember the Future is also appreciative inquiry so I followed the link to Diana Larsen’s post on how to use the technique, and the rest is history.

Result

We tried something different and I’m very pleased with how this technique played out. Looking forward to look back seems strange, but it resulted in different topics to those we normally see. In particular, I don’t think the managers in the room would’ve ever predicted the top most voted for topic.

There also seemed to be a confidence boost among the team. I’m putting this done to the fact that none of us discarded any of the points raised with “we’d have never done that”.

Summary

Appreciative Inquiry offers a change of pace from most of the other techniques out there. I would highly recommend it if you’re just about to start a new release or have been hit with a load of problems, as it’s a great way of finding out what the team think should happen soon. One of the team afterwards also said (which I think is fantastic):

“[it was] a great technique to celebrate our qualities”

Thanks to @dougbradbury for his post which started my research, @findingmarbles for Retr-O-Mat and @dianaofportland for the details of how to perform the technique.

Personal Retrospective

What went well?

  • Flipping the direction of the retrospective from backwards looking to forward looking was great;
  • Discovering an unexpected desire from the team;
  • We got the chance to highlight both our individual and team successes;
  • The team confidence boost

What could I have done better?

  • I should’ve provided more examples of team and individual qualities as we didn’t get many of those.

What should I not do again

  • Forget over the Christmas holiday that the first Tuesday back is retrospective day 🙂

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