Awesomify Your Retrospectives

Stale Retrospectives? Try Tasty Cupcakes!

And by that, I mean go on over to TastyCupcakes.org for ideas on different Retrospective formats. Just remember that the goal is one piece of Kaizen: one actionable item of improvement to try during the upcoming Sprint.

(I’ve said “piece of Kaizen” as a phrase a lot, such that at one gig it was misheard as “pizza Kaizen”, which got everybody repeating it. Hey, whatever works, amirite?)

One retro format I’ve enjoyed facilitating is the Spotify Health Check. Yes, there are articles that are closer to the source than the one to which I’m linking, but this is the one off of which I’ve worked.

(Yeesh, you try not ending a sentence with a preposition.)

I won’t repeat the mechanics here, but I will say I’ve giddily enjoyed reading aloud the aspirational description of each metric, the ability to show trends across time per team, and the ability to show trends across all teams per metric.

The metrics add focus to the discussion, on which I capitalize by offering up to discuss the highest rated ones, the lowest rated ones, the ones with the biggest change from last time, and the ones that are most polarizing (large number of positive and negative ratings) – the team chooses which ones to address, and the discussion order. These retrospectives become genuinely interesting, where the gathering phase can take 8 minutes, with practice.

And who’s to say these 10 metrics are sacred? I’ve had a team add a metric, truly making this format their own. Granted, it was the name of the team’s co-op student (intern), but Brendan took it like a champ.

The downside is that, after a few Sprints, this gets boring. For all my love of metrics and inspecting trend data, the teams found retros getting stale again, so I pleaded for us to invest in the 8 minutes every other week, and then move on to another retro format.

Want another Retrospective format? Bruce McCarthy uses Three Awesome Questions. I’m a big fan of his book Product Roadmaps: Relaunched – reading this was my second education in Product Management, the CSPO class being my first.

Here’s that retro format in Bruce’s words:

On a scale of 1-5, how awesome is it being at this company? On this team? And how how awesome is the work you were able to do this sprint (or since the last time we did a retro)?

We record those numbers, then also whatever comments the people have on each rating. We do this silently and anonymously, then share all the info for discussion.

We try to extract themes from the comments of things that are impeding our sense of awesomeness at any level. We pick 1-2 of these to focus on, then brainstorm ideas for addressing (even a little) each. We pick 1-2 ideas to implement and assign an owner.

Most of this is facilitated via our app, but it can be done with stickies and a white board. It’s just harder to track over time and across teams, and thus less useful for agile coaches or management. More info on the app can be found at www.awesomeness.team.

Bruce McCarthy, in an email to me

There. Two Retrospective Formats. You’re welcome.

Notes from my Minimalism Reading

Ah, Spring cleaning. Yes, my desk is much clearer, thanks for asking. And so are my virtual spaces (Inbox Zero, baby!). See, I use my iPhone’s Reminders app for my backlogs. Over the years, those lists’ve also been used to gather notes from the articles I read, podcasts I listen to, and videos I… watch some of but mostly listen to as I do the dishes. Thus, I’ve accumulated a lot of virtual stuff to shed, and what better time to do so than a quarantine?

So here are my notes on Minimalism that I’m putting away. How meta.

Continue reading Notes from my Minimalism Reading

Guardrails for Glee

I blog twice a week. To me, that’s impressive. Yes, I’m impressed with myself, and every once in a while, I pat myself on the back, which is akin to the SelfFive. (They’re not all quality.) (That’s besides the point.)

In reality, I blog in spurts, creating content in batches, scheduling their release on a schedule. So, technically, I publish twice a week. (Big whoop.) (Still proud.)

You may ask yourself, though, how one drums up enough content to blog about. (I wasn’t asking that.) (Dude. Chill.)

  • Sometimes, I share what I’m learning as I learn it, whether it’s from painstakingly analyzing a larger work, like a book, or from gradually building up a larger idea, like what feels like more of an original contribution.
  • Sometimes, I’m inspired by the YouTube videos I listen to as I do dishes, realizing they may loosely relate to something I’ve already blogged about.

This post is from the former. I’ll start with five lines. (Wow, you’re not even going to hide it.) (Yep. I’m embracing the process, sharing that process along the way, all meta-like, and I’ll save smooth blog post introductions for another time.)

  • from MVP post: Will this be an audio platform for the music I want to make that I keep kicking myself for not doing? How convenient. Will this be fun? You betcha.
  • from MVP post: To get to that vision, though, you need to take a step, which means embracing the phrase, “This is enough for now.“
  • from Side Hustling post: get to regularly releasing, focusing in the short-term on improving quality of style and quality of content
  • from Side Hustling post: I believe if I “do a variety of fun & interesting things, with my skills & passions, every day,” then I won’t hate myself as I work towards other revenue streams
  • glee definition: great delight

I feel like I’ve lowered the barrier to outputting blog posts (…after 9 years… geez) (after… 9 years… wow), and I’d like to do the same for the podcast. And I’ve got a couple of things in my favour.

  • passion: I feel a sense of glee when I think about the serious & silly musical possibilities from this audio platform.
  • skill: I look forward to the challenge of learning a platform (GarageBand for iOS) because editing & producing from anywhere feels bad-ass.

The vision is so grand that it’s intimidating, and that’s what’s impeding me. Thus, this blog post is mostly to remind myself to take a step, and much like the blog in its early days, take a small step, embracing the phrase, “This is enough for now.”

So with these next few episodes, I’m folding in a new styling, like voice alteration for the evil-Merrill antagonistic voice you occasionally see here, in italics, and in parentheses (Who, me?), or somehow conveying content where I added an unnecessary but lightly comical alternative a strikethrough, or doing justice to lengthier sections that describe an alternate scene. These are all aspects of my playful style, my steez, which I’ve grown comfortable with for this blog medium, and I’ve grown curiosity for in how I can get them to translate to a podcast. Yes, I’m sure I’ll find other stylings that are podcast-specific, but I’m starting somewhere, in the spirit of embracing the phrase, “This is enough for now.”

(So what are these guardrails?)

To better enjoy this podcasting journey of passion (glee!) and skill (challenge!), I’ve got to take a small step in styling, through a small step in content, embracing the phrase, “This is enough for now.”

(Kinda overkill with that phrase, wouldn’t ya say?)

(Dude. Chill. That is enough.)

(…For now? 😉)

(For now. 😎)