Scrum Retrospective Experience – ESVP, Sailboat and Constellation

I recently conducted my first Sprint Retrospective since becoming a Certified ScrumMaster and although I think it went ok, I’m sure there’s room for improvement. I’m hoping that by writing about it I perform a more in-depth personal reflection than I normally would and if someone else finds it useful or can provide feedback, I’ll be very happy.

Brief Background

This is an established team that has great morale, but they’ve been through the ringer a bit. I was worried the enthusiasm for Agile was fading, or worse, we were just going through the motions.

Five Stage Retrospective

When I first joined, I asked twitter about the various retrospective techniques others liked and Ben Linders kindly responded. So when I saw the book he’d written on the very subject – – was cheap I bought it!

Unsurprisingly, I followed the 5 stage retrospective mentioned in that book and used the techniques within.

  1. Set the Stage
  2. Gather Data
  3. Generate Insights
  4. Decide what to do
  5. Close the retrospective

Stage 1 – Set the stage.

The aim/context of this Retrospective was two-fold:

  1. Understand the teams opinion of our sprint retrospectives
  2. Discover the biggest issue/worry that we currently have

We used ESVP Check-In to discover the first, which resulted in 4 E, 2 S, 2 SP, 1 ESV and 1 P. I’m reading that as I was partially correct in my fear that the team were beginning to lose faith in retrospectives, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought.

Stage 2 – Gather data.

To gather data from the team, I used the Sailboat Retrospective technique. I’m pleased to say it resulted in a lot of post-it notes, so the team were clearly engaged, but I’m worried/disappointed about the number of negative things that were noted.

Stage 3 – Generate insights.

The team talked through each post-it on the sailboat, discussing in-depth the reason for it being there. I used this time to try and see how strongly the team felt about the issue, if they all agreed and how big an issue it was.

Stage 4 – Decide what to do.

There were too many post-it notes to tackle at once, so I used the Constellation technique on a few I hand-picked and a few I asked the team to select as most important.

Not only did this get everyone back on their feet and engaged (there was a definite increase in discussion afterwards) but is a really clear indicator of the teams feeling.

We then took each one from most important to least important and came up with some actions to hopefully resolve the issues before the next retrospective in 2 weeks.

Stage 5 – Close the retrospective.

Nothing special to note beyond thanking the team for the patience and enthusiasm for a new approach. I also asked for feedback, which I’m hoping will come willingly over the next couple of days.

Personal Retrospective

In summary, I’m really happy with the retrospective. I certainly gained some insight and I think the team got something out of it.

What went well?

ESVP, Sailboat and Constellation proved very nice techniques.

What could I have done better?

I’m slightly worried I led the Generate Insights stage too much. I think the team lost interest a little and some of the momentum was lost.

What should I not do again?

In preparation for the retrospective I ran out of time to think about stage 4 onwards. I think that led to the loss of momentum.

4 thoughts on “Scrum Retrospective Experience – ESVP, Sailboat and Constellation

  1. Ben Linders says:

    First I want to thank you for choosing our book Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives for designing your retrospectives. We love to hear from our readers on how the book helps them to do better retrospectives!

    If a sailboat exercise reveals negative things, that is actually good. The intention of a retrospective is to reflect and learn. If there are problems, when would you like to know about them? Preferably as soon as possible so that you can deal with them. If there are already signals during a stand-up, then you can discuss them decide to take action there, or plan a retrospective to explore them and deal with them. By regularly doing a retrospective you assure that problems can be made visible and dealt with sooner, before doing too much damage.

    A constellation is a great exercise to get people engaged. They have to stand up and move. By posing questions and asking people to change their position, the system reveals itself. I would love to hear more about how it helped the team to get insight into the issue and explore their feelings. Could you share them?

    I like it how you did a personal retrospectives and stated your learnings. Finding out how much or how little to lead can be difficult. The best way to learn it is to do many retrospectives, and be open on this with the team. Ask them if they are ok with the way that you are doing or did the retrospective? Check with them how you are doing, and if that works for them? Reflecting on the way the retrospective is going helps to adopt agile retrospectives in the organization.

    Thanks again for sharing your experiences Matt!

    • DuFeu says:

      Thanks for taking the time to reply Ben, it’s very much appreciated.

      I probably shouldn’t share the technical issues, but I feel safe in revealing “knowledge silos” was one of the things we used constellation on. It instantly showed a “marmite” mentality in the team, some thought it was really important and others barely considered it an issue. That lead to some great conversations and I think we’re all now in agreement about how important it is that we do something about it.

      Good idea about asking them how the retrospectives are going.

  2. […] DuFeu described in Scrum Retrospective Experience – ESVP, Sailboat and Constellation how he combined several exercises from our book to design a valuable retrospective. I reacted on […]

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