Tree Retrospective Model

In the Agile world, ScrumMaster and Agile Coaches are often referred to as a gardener that helps a seed grow to provide shade and/or a fruitful tree. You need to prepare the ground, remove weed and give enough nutrition for good growth. At workplace, this resembles creating a safe environment for a person to do the work.

After getting inspiration from High-Performance Tree metaphor, I thought about why not create a retrospective model from it. You can use this retrospective model for Sprint or any other project closure as well.

Note: I am using “timespan” for Sprint or certain project duration.

Here are the model description and facilitation guide for it. Let me know if you have any feedback after experimenting with it.

Tree Retrospective Model - Khurram Bhatti

1.  Team Weather (5 min) – Check-in

Start the (Sprint) Retrospective with a Team weather Check-in.Screen Shot 2019-03-21 at 17.12.43

  • On physical or digital board, create three legends/diagrams Rainy, Cloudy or Sunny.
  • Ask the participants to write their name on a sticky note and put it under Rainy, Cloudy or Sunny.
  • Gather some insight by asking the team to share the weather status as seen on the board.

As a facilitator, this activity will help you to assess the energy in the room and team.

2. The Tree (10 min)

After exploring the Team weather, let’s continue with the actual discussion part using tree metaphor for the team.

As a facilitator, draw the above diagram and explain it as …

a. Fruits

Fruits are deliverables, results or output expected from the timespan. Were we ableScreen Shot 2019-03-21 at 17.13.17 to produce enough Fruits as a team?

Ask the team to write individually on the (e-)sticky notes the Fruits produced during the timespan and put them on the tree.

b. Nutrition

A tree requires a good amount of nutrition and water for growth.

Nutritions are Appreciation, Company values, Scrum Values (Courage, Focus, Screen Shot 2019-03-21 at 17.13.11Openness, Respect, Commitment), Team Values or Team Alliance/Team working agreements.

As a facilitator, you can use the standard explanation for the Scrum Values to help the team to understand Nutrition factor

Let’s take an example of Scrum values which are more familiar in the Scrum world.

If during the Sprint, the team could not focus on sprint backlog due to external interruption or things changed more often than anticipated, then this is clearly an issue with Focus value.

Continuing, if team members didn’t raise any concerns about losing Focus to ScrumMaster or Product owner then it means that Courage value is lacking in the team to ask tough questions and raise concerns.

Ask the team to write individually on the (e-)sticky notes the nutritions lacking/lacked during the timespan and put them near Nutritions or roots.

c. Stones

To establish the roots faster tree needs soft soil and fewer stones in its ground, the stones can impede the growth of roots.Screen Shot 2019-03-21 at 17.13.05

Stones in our tree metaphor (Team) are the impediments, the examples could be communication, people, process, technical, product level or whatever the team thinks is an impediment.

Ask the team to write individually on the (e-)sticky notes the Stones located in its ground during the timespan and put them near Stones.

d. Protect

The environment and location of the tree play an important role in its growth. A windy terrain will definitely shake the trunk of the tree. However, with strong roots, it can sustain the windy or stormy situation.Screen Shot 2019-03-21 at 17.12.58

As a gardener, it’s important for ScrumMaster or Agile Coach to protect the Team from external stress, pressure or unnecessary interruptions and let the team focus on actual work. Wind is the metaphor for such scenarios.

Ask the team to write individually on the (e-)sticky notes the Protect causing/caused issues during the timespan and put them near Protect.

Note: As a facilitator, you can ask the team to write sticky notes for all at once or step by step.

3. Gather Insights (30 min)

Once the team has placed all the sticky notes on respective areas on the board, ask the team to spend some time and see if they can gather some insights. Ask powerful questions to keep the discussion on-going and highlight the growth opportunities.

  • How do they feel after looking at the sticky notes?
  • If there are fewer Fruits produced then what caused it?
  • Are they lacking nutrition?
  • Are there many any stones?
  • Is the environment around the team is windy that they need protection from?

4. Let’s grow together (10 min)

The key part of a retrospective is to decide “what to do next?”

After exploring all the areas, ask the team what would they like to do to keep growing? Where do they need to focus together as a team that can create more Fruits?  The team can use dot voting to decide where they can gain more value. Take that as an experiment to see if it really works and then iterate.

It is always good to have a number of experiment actions that the team can manage in the next Sprint with a commitment and focus.

5. Check-out (5 min)

Ask the team to rate the retrospective discussion with a vote, 1 finger – less productive to 5 fingers – very productive

Don’t forget to follow up on the selected experiment actions in the next Retrospective to assess if it really worked or they need to adapt another way.

Please give it a try in your next Retrospective meeting and share your experience.

Creative Commons  Attribution CC BY


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