Plane Refutro Retrospective Model

Are you using any metaphor in your Retrospective meetings?

Using Metaphors in our conversations can help us to understand an object, conversation or action from a different perspective. They can also serve as a powerful tool leading us to think in new or a different way.

This post describes a Plane Refutro Model, a model to talk about possible improvements and future uncertainty in particular.

Here are the model description and facilitation guideline. You can use it in Sprint or any other project meeting.

Screen Shot 2019-03-21 at 17.16.59

Plane Refutro Model

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

1. Engines and Fuel

Engines and Fuel help a plane to create enough thrust to become airborne and sustain the flight journey. If the plane has an issue with engines or has insufficient fuel that might lead to an undesirable situation.Screen Shot 2019-03-21 at 17.19.00

Similarly, commitment, focus, passion, energy and whatever motivates the team are the engines and fuel for the Sprint duration.

2. Gravity

Gravity is the force that the plane flies against, to overcome it, the plane has a special aerodynamic structure to fly and overcome certain gravitational forces.Screen Shot 2019-03-21 at 17.19.07

We grow when we overcome certain challenges, Gravity in this metaphor serves the same purpose. Identify what are the challenges and impediments that leads to a less smooth flight and causing turbulence. Do we need to reform the team or structure, do we have a process, product or competency challenges.

3. Uncertainty

Even though we can’t predict the future and what exactly will happen but still it is goodScreen Shot 2019-03-21 at 17.18.45 to assess the concerns, risks, unknowns and even future opportunities. Based on the current situation how things will turn out to be in reality.

Being Agile plays an important role to handle uncertainty, based on new information, a new approach or a different path can be adapted.

3a. Uncertainty Matrix or Uncertainty Space

Next step is to place the sticky notes on an uncertainty matrix or uncertainty space. but let’s first develop some understanding of it.

There are two axes in uncertainty matrix, WHAT uncertainty on the x-axis and HOW uncertainty on the y-axis.

Each axis has three parts…

  • Green – Low uncertainty, more clarity
  • Yellow –  Medium uncertainty, some things are clear and others are now
  • Red – High uncertainty,  no clarity

For example, if a sticky note is placed on a spotScreen Shot 2019-03-22 at 00.10.50 where WHAT uncertainty is Green/Low and HOW uncertainty is Red/High then it means that we know WHAT to do however we don’t know HOW to do it.

This might happen at the start of the project or Sprint, where we know what to do but don’t know how to do it, further investigation or exploration is needed. With the passage of time once we start implementation or execution then uncertainty reduces or can even increase as new unknown information is discovered.

Now on the other hand if a sticky note is on a spot where WHAT uncertainty is Red/High Screen Shot 2019-03-21 at 17.18.45and HOW uncertainty is Green/Low. It means that we don’t know what to build however we have the expertise to do it.

My observation says that this usually happens when we don’t know what next feature or improvement to implement in the product which could lead to a potential deal or satisfy a certain customer need. It could be a start-up company situation or new

The ultimate goal is to reduce both HOW and WHAT uncertainty and stay more in the green zone. It won’t be a straight line however could be a zigzag line. Once we determine WHAT then we can work on HOW, and once we determine HOW then we determine WHAT.

OBS: It all depends on the need, which uncertainty you want to reduce first or in parallel

Facilitation Guide

  1. Ask the team to write individually on the sticky notes for below areas and place in the respective area. (10 mins)
    • The Engines and Fuel of the Team.
    • The Gravity or Gravitational forces that are pulling the team down
    • The Uncertainty (Concerns, Risks, Unknowns, and Opportunities)
  2. Sticky note owner shares thoughts and team comments, repeat for all the sticky notes. (20 mins)
  3. Ask the team to generate some insights by grouping similar cards and explore them together (5 mins)
    • You can use the dot voting (or any other favorite method) to identify the item(s) which is/are pulling the team down and then discuss how the team would like to overcome it.
  4. For Uncertainty area sticky notes, ask the team to map each sticky note on the two-dimensional space or matrix as explained above. (30 mins)
    • Ask “Why the sticky note is on that particular spot?“, if needed, repeat the question for all sticky notes to build a common understanding in the team.
    • Ask the team to generate some insights by grouping similar cards, where do we have less/more uncertainty.
      • Mark the sticky notes with the before location on the matrix
  5. Ask powerful questions to help the team to discuss what they would like to do to reduce the uncertainty for the particular sticky note(s) (15 min)
    • See if the placement has changed, has the team reduced or increased the uncertainty after discussion?
      • Mark the sticky notes with the after location on the matrix
    • Ask the team to identify sticky notes that the team would like to work within upcoming days/weeks/sprint
  6. Ask the team what they would like to do differently in the next Sprint Retrospective.

Note: Time variable can change based on the team members and kind of discussion.

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



Creative Commons  Attribution CC BY

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