Retrospective Experience – One-Word with Marmite Voting

The last couple of retrospectives – “ESVP, Sailboat and Constellation” and “Self-Assessment and Circles and Soup” – had much larger scopes than you’d normally use. So for this retrospective I wanted to bring the scope much tighter and concentrate on what you’d normally discuss, i.e. the last sprint.

Stage 1 – Set the Stage

As usual, the team recapped the last retrospective and went through the progress made on the previous actions. It was great to see some of the team calling me out on not following up on some of the actions I had. They’re not only paying attention, but they also care. Perhaps one day I will make myself redundant and the team will be truly self-sufficient!

Perhaps one day I will make myself redundant

As we’d all just had a nice long weekend thanks to a bank holiday Monday, I wanted the check-in to get the team talking. So I used a slight variation of One-Word where we split into two and were tasked with saying the one-word your partner would use to describe the last sprint.

I time-boxed that to 10 minute discussion, and I’m pleased to say it worked rather well. As expected the words chosen were on the negative side, but it achieved the engagement I was looking for and woke everyone up.

Stage 2- Gather Data

To gather data, we used a technique I read about called Marmite Voting‚Äč. I created 8 pre-written topics and each person in the team is asked to rate their feelings between 0 (“HATE IT”) to 10 (“LOVE IT”).

Stage 3 – Generate Insights

I collated the results of the Marmite Voting and wrote up on the board the scores. We then discussed as a team what we thought each score meant, i.e. why it was low, are we suprised by that score, what does it mean.

As an example we realised that using technology X is new and therefore slow going (as the scores were low when asked if we liked using it), but we should try and stick with it (as the scores were high when asked if we thought the team/project would benefit in the long run).

Stage 4 – Decide What to Do

As I only asked 8 questions, we were able to discuss the low scoring topics thoroughly and come up with ideas to raise the scores next time.

Stage 5 – Close

I thanked the team for their hard work and ideas produced so far.

What went well?

  • I realized the team were feeling a bit lethargic and used a Check-In exercise that got all the team involved.
  • Marmite-Voting is pretty good when you have a clear question you want answered.
  • It was great to realise the team didn’t particular enjoy using a new technology but could see the benefits. This really focused us towards tweaking the way we use it to hopefully make things easier.

What could I have done better?

  • I don’t think I explained the One-Word variation particularly well as some of the team members had blank faces for a while. (Although the subsequent laughter at me explaining it badly for a second time certainly woke some of them up)
  • I might consider asking the product owner (or perhaps even other team members) if there are any topics they want discussed the next time I do Marmite Voting.

What should I not do again?

  • I think I led, rather than facilitated the Generate Insights part of the retrospective. Perhaps that isn’t a bad thing, but I think my voice was over used.

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