A "People First" Blog.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Retrospectives...We Have a Game for That!

My story, just like yours is unique. From the very beginning innovation has been at the forefront of my agile training and development, it is truly all I have ever known.
If you have never heard of Luke Hohmann or Innovation Games® please stop reading and go google them…

Innovation Games® has positively impacted my scrum teams in every scenario they have ever been used in. One game in particular, speedboat, I have used in every retrospective I have been apart of for over 18 months.

The original game, created by Luke Hohmann, was created to help your customer air their complaints without creating a snowball effect.  The game is played like this:

Draw a speedboat on a flip chart or white board. The speedboat is your product or system. The goal of your speedboat is to go fast but there are anchors slowing you down or even bringing you to a complete stop.

Have your customer write the features they are having problems with on sticky notes and place them as anchors on the board or flip chart. When your customers are done writing down their problems review each one  to ensure all parties have an agreed upon understanding of how to fix that problem.

When I was taught speedboat it was for a specific purpose, to air problems on a scrum team during a retrospective, adapted by Scotty Bevill. In his version anchors can be written by anyone on the team. The speedboat is posted in the team’s area throughout the entire sprint, so that when a problem or issue arises there is a place to hang that concern.

In addition to the anchors the team is encouraged to place sticky notes behind the boat. These symbolize the things that move your boat (project/product/system) forward. These sticky notes are the things that are going well and the team wants to continue doing.

During the retrospective, the team goes over these positives and elaborates about what was the cause of the positive impact. (This can help bring spirits up if there are a lot of anchors)

After working with this Scotty’s adapted version on multiple teams and seeing the benefits it brings I began to experiment with my own adaptation. I noticed a pattern that when teams began to work through their anchors, naturally goals for the next sprint came out but there was no where to document them.

To solve this problem, in front of the speedboat I drew an island. I asked my teams to look at the island as goals for where they are going. As we talked throughout our retrospective when a goal arose we documented them on sticky notes and put them on our island.

Having the goals documented created a new aspect to our retrospectives. Goals from previous sprints became the positives that pushed our team forward and a win we claimed as a team.

In the cases when a goal was not met it became an anchor. Before we utilized this new technique a problem or concern would get talked about when first exposed but if the problem wasn’t immediately solved it would often times get lost until it was such a big problem it caused an explosion.

Now that they were documented and kept in front of the team on a daily basis it was impossible to ignore an anchor. The ability to respond and solve problems went through the roof and became a truly high performing team.

If a boat metaphor doesn’t work for you team adapt it. I worked on a project that was rewriting a Motorcycle Ohio program for the State of Ohio. In this particular instance I drew a motorcycle with cracks and potholes in the road representing our problems and gas representing what moves us forward. To replace the island a finish line could be used or even a green light.

The cool thing is this is just one of the twelve core games that Luke created and established as The Innovation Games® Company, now Conteneo.

Imagine what your teams can do when you begin to play and Learn By Doing.

Jessica Soroky, CSM

Recently turning 22 years old, Jessica is already a Certified Scrum Master with two years of practice in agile delivery and team leadership. She is also the youngest participant in The Leadership Gift™ Program and its growing worldwide community of leaders and coaches.After five years of non-profit development through Nellie’s Catwalk for Kids, Jessica continues her leadership journey in state government, not-for-profit, and private sector leadership studies.