Today’s topic is all about retrospectives! A retrospective is a short meeting for project teams to reflect on the most recent stage of their project, analyze their processes, and identify issues or things they can do better, moving forward.
Joining Dan Neumann today is his colleague and return guest, Sam Falco. Sam is an Agile Coach and Certified Scrum Professional with an extensive background leading agile development teams.
Dan and Sam dive deep into discussing Agile retrospectives, going over the five phases of the widely accepted framework from Esther Derby’s and Diana Larsen’s book, Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great. They also discuss what makes an effective retrospective, some of the failure patterns in unsuccessful retrospectives, and some great resources on retrospectives to follow up on after this week’s show!
- The five phases of the Agile Retrospectives framework:
- Set the Stage
- Gather data
- Generate Insights
- Decide What to Do
- Close the Retrospective
- What makes an effective retrospective?
- Engage the team in ‘setting the stage’ activities (as it is imperative for the team to effectively work together)
- Track useful and pertinent data to bring to the retrospective
- Leverage an experimental mindset
- Generate insights by digging deeper beyond the superficial issues by using the ‘5 Whys’
- Narrow down the list, make the list doable/actionable, hold people accountable, and follow through
- Show appreciation for your teammates
- Ask or feedback as a facilitator to improve future retrospectives
- What are some failure patterns?
- Making the cycles too short and time-cutting due to no value
- Covering the same issues every time without any experiment to fix it
- Turning the retrospective into an unproductive complaint session
- Having a long list of too many things to change (which dilutes focus)
- Declaring your hands are tied and the problem cannot be fixed
Mentioned in this Episode:
Dan Neumann and Sam Falco’s Book Picks:
- Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great, by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen
- Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives — A Toolbox of Retrospectives Exercises, by Luis Gonçalves and Ben Linders
- Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won, by Tobias Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim
- Bluebird, Bluebird, by Attica Locke
- Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts., by Brené Brown
Like what you heard? Check out our podcast page for more episodes full of interesting discussions, agile insights, and helpful resources.
Intro: [00:03] Welcome to Agile Coaches’ Corner by AgileThought. The podcast for practitioners and leaders seeking advice to refine the way they work and pave the path to better outcomes. Now here’s your host, coach and agile expert, Dan Neumann.
Dan Neumann: [00:19] Welcome to the Agile Coaches’ Corner Podcast and thank you for joining. I am Dan Neumann. One of our goals here is to bring you agile topics in a really approachable way and we take a pretty broad view of what an agile topic might be. So I’d invite you to, if you have a topic you want as a future episode, send us an email at email@example.com or tweet it to us with the #AgileThoughtPodcast and we will see about responding to that in the very near future. Today’s topic is going to be retrospectives and with me again is my colleague Sam Falco.
Sam Falco: [00:56] Hello Dan.
Dan Neumann: [00:56] Hey Sam, thanks for joining here. We uh, call the little audible and what we were doing and so we are covering retrospectives today for me where some of the retrospective stuff started. I was at an agile conference down in Orlando and at lunchtime there was a round table with little sign that said Diana Larsen. And I was like, oh, I wonder who that is. Um, and so several years ago I had a chance to sit down and meet Diana. And that was before I knew about the great book Agile Retrospectives that Diana Larsen and Esther Derby had put together. And for me, that’s one of those touchstone books that is used so much in the agile industry. And it seems like everybody after them has built upon that topic. I don’t know, Sam, how are you? How are you seeing?
Sam Falco: [01:41] I have personally bought five copies of that book. I keep giving them away. Uh, I bought one for my, my first copy for myself. Someone was looking through it, said, Hey, can I borrow this? So it was less a giveaway than I loaned it and it didn’t come back to me. And then I bought another copy for myself, gave that to someone at my next company when I left, and then et cetera. So yeah, I think I’m on my fifth copy now.
Dan Neumann: [02:08] You’re far more generous than I am. I have my copy. It’s dogeared and sticky note at all over the place so nobody’s getting it. One of the things I like about the book Agile Retrospectives, making good teams great is that it provides a structure. A lot of teams right now we’ll often do a what’s working, what’s not and what do we want to do different and within the Agile Retrospectives book, it has a five step process of setting the stage, gathering data. Then you generate insights, decide what to do and close the retrospective and I really liked that lightweight framework.
Sam Falco: [02:45] Yeah, I like that as well. It’s important to have a structure and if you really, if you skip any of those stages, you miss something, especially the set the stage, which sometimes people feel you can do without it. Just dive right in. I had a director of engineering at one company I was at who didn’t understand why we needed so much time for retrospectives. And he insisted on sitting in on one of my team retrospectives as we literally would have had to carry him out of the room to say, no, you can’t be here. And uh, he afterward just was appalled at the, uh, little set the stage exercise that I did because, well, why didn’t you just start talking about the problems? And I, we talked about it quite a bit and he finally came to understand that setting the stage, that initial thing is important. It’s actually imperative in moving people out of, I’m focused on the problem that I’m trying to solve to, to deliver software to, I’m focused on the team and how we’re going to work together. So it makes a nice transition. It makes a crucial transition into that mindset that we need for effective retrospectives.
Dan Neumann: [03:57] Agreed. There’s, there’s the mindset of getting people focused on the problem and it even, that solves some of the, the simple mechanics, like getting somebody to say something in a meeting, right? Like, you know, if you’ve got, if you jump right into the problem and we’ll talk about some of the anti patterns, you get the first talker who’s typically anchors the conversation on the thing that they most want to talk about, whether it’s the most important thing or not. And then a lot of times you stay there and other people maybe check out either explicitly or implicitly, they don’t contribute. And so even just some of the set the stage activities of getting people to say something that makes it more likely that they’re going to talk later on.
Sam Falco: [04:41] Yeah, absolutely. And you know, it’s funny, I just remembered my high school chemistry teacher would start a class with what’s in the news today. It had nothing to do with chemistry. He just, and, and I had asked him at one point, why don’t we start with this? It’s not, it’s not related to what we’re talking about. Um, I have social studies class, you know, next period and, well no, but I want to get people in the habit of speaking up in class. So same concepts.
Dan Neumann: [05:13] Life lessons from high school. That’s awesome. When you say so much time, I’m curious what amount of time you might be referring to there because I’ve also heard people say, oh these things take so much time and I’m curious if you can quantify, uh, the typical time box you need for let’s say a retrospective on a two week sprint.
Sam Falco: [05:31] Well, retrospective on a two week sprint is up to 90 minutes. I have done them successfully with a mature team. I always hate to use the word mature cause it sounds, uh, I don’t know, it sounds a little odd. A team that has that is well practiced. I’ve done them in, in less time, a half an hour, not half an hour, an hour, but uh, any shorter than that for two week retrospective and people’s gears start to search a grind. They’re trying to, oh well we’ve got to get it down to a very short time. And I said half an hour a minute ago because one of my teams said, hey, could we try doing a retrospective in a half an hour? And I said, let’s give it a shot. And afterwards we did a mini retro on the retro and they were like, man, that they got so focused on, we’ve got to be out of here in half an hour that it shut down conversation. So I’m not saying you have to take the full 90 minutes, but uh, find a good length of time for the team and let them be guided on that. Give themselves their own guidance I suppose is what I mean.
Dan Neumann: [06:37] Yeah. One of the anti patterns I see is the two short retrospective in that typically has a death spiral that looks like, well, we had to pick a time box, we used to take an hour and they weren’t effective and so we cut it down to half an hour and we weren’t getting effective changed. And so we’re down to 15 minute retros because they’re not effective. Right. You know, instead of cutting the time maybe find a way to make them effective. Cutting the time isn’t going to do it.
Sam Falco: [07:06] Right. Yeah. Then again, you need to retro in the retro, why aren’t we getting the value? It’s not because we’re necessarily, because we’re spending too much time. Um, and, and it might not be that we’re not spending enough time. It might be that we’re just not focused. But yeah, frequently people reach for the first obvious answer, which is well we spent an hour on this. It’s, it’s not giving us any value, but we have to do it because of the scrum guide says we must. So we’ll just sacrifice without really getting into what it is we’re trying to accomplish here and how we can get the value that they were looking for.
Dan Neumann: [07:39] And I agree. Don’t do them because the scrum guide says to, but if we have, if you look at the scrum principles of transparency, Inspection and adaptation, you’ve got to do that. Otherwise you’re not going to embrace the empirical nature of scrum and the retrospective’s a great framework for doing that. So the why isn’t cause scrum says so the wise because, absolutely.
Sam Falco: [08:03] And I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. Um, but a lot of times teams will just go through the motions because it’s in the scrum guide. Scrum says we have to do this and if we don’t do everything, we’re not doing scrum, but they don’t look at the, why does the scrum guide say you should do retrospectives? You know, and it’s, it goes beyond scrum. Uh, obviously the, the 12th principle in the, uh, agile manifesto, a list of principles, is it regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective than tunes and adjusts behavior accordingly as nothing specifically to do with scrum. That’s just what a team must do to continue being effective.
Dan Neumann: [08:40] That’s fantastic. So that might be part of setting the stage as well as is the wire there and then gathering data. I feel like a lot of times teams don’t bring data they, or if they do, it’s the subjective data. My personal experience with whatever the situation was that, that happened, that sprint. Are there data points that you’ve seen be effective?
Sam Falco: [09:05] How do you mean?
Dan Neumann: [09:06] I think for me, one of them, let’s say if a team wants to pair more frequently, you know, let’s track that and bring some data to the retrospective about how often we’re pairing. If they’re concerned about code quality, some static analysis tools that can give you an actual objective measure of code quality, the complexity of the structure, bring that. It’s not just, Oh gosh, the code’s getting hard to maintain or we have too many bugs or some, or our velocity is down. You know, those type of really basic things.
Sam Falco: [09:41] Right. Well, I mean if those come up and during the course of the retrospective you realize, yeah, we want to improve this, but we don’t know how because we don’t have the data, then maybe your improvement, a action item for that sprint is, hey, let’s go get the data on, on how we’ve been doing so that we bring it into the next retrospective.
Dan Neumann: [10:02] Definitely. We did a podcast a little while back with Adam Ulery about experimental mindset and that pairs really well with the retrospective because now we have, we’ll gather some data, we’ll decide what we want to do about it after generating insights. And then the question is how do you measure the impact of what you want to do and framing that up as an experiment. Hey, we have a hypothesis, here’s the action we’re going to take to either try and prove or disprove that and then what data can we collect about the impact? And either way you win because it’s learning. I like putting the experimental mindset with this.
Sam Falco: [10:42] Absolutely. I find that teams do come into retrospective with data, sometimes too much and too disparate, especially if you are, uh, if the team is used to the complaint session style, uh, we’re, we’re nothing. They come in and they’ve got a litany of complaints. It’s like festivus the airing of grievances begins. Uh, so, uh, some teams don’t lack for data. They like for focus. And so, um, what I will usually do is try to get a feel for what’s going on with the team over the course of the sprint and without, I try not to anchor them too much, but ask questions that lead them to focusing on, um, you know, what happened this sprint that is most important right now.
Dan Neumann: [11:35] And I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad kind of anchoring because you do want to set the stage. You do want to put some kind of constraint around the conversation? Yes, the timebox is one, but to have a sprint or two where you know, maybe the theme of those couple of sprints, retrospectives is on practices or collaborating with the customer or faster feedback or, or whatever maybe most appropriate because we do have short feedback cycles. So let’s take a sprint or two, let’s focus in on this particular theme and make some changes and gather some feedback on that. Right? As opposed to anchoring I think of is really overweighting the first thing that somebody says. So if you’ve got that person who comes in and they’re, they’ve got their little pet peeve that they always want to talk about and it’s hard to move off of that. That’s, that’s how I see it. Yeah. See, see your, frame it up in a particular way. Yeah. So generating insights is one of those activities that once you have the data, it’s now what might that be telling us and allowing kind of a more open ended or a broader exploration of what we might be seeing in that data. I think for me, generating insights, it, it’s, you’ve got things like five whys and some different activities to start digging down beyond the superficial, we’ve got too many bugs. Well what should we do? We should code fewer bugs. Oh, okay. And how might we go about that? Like how do we go deeper than just the superficial, we should take the action to not do the thing that’s a problem.
Sam Falco: [13:13] Right? Right. In the genuine insights goes beyond just, you know, oh look, hey, let’s coach your box. But so we’ve got, you know, our quality has dropped. What’s going on with, as you said, the five whys. What are some factors that can, can uh, explain this behavior or might be affecting it?
Dan Neumann: [13:31] Yeah, the, the issue with quality might be coming from, you might have a skillset from a developer that needs some attention. They might be skimping on things like unit tests. They might be relying too much on documentation. Instead of going in, tapping the product owner on the shoulder for clarification or collaborating with the q wave person, cause time zones. You know, there’s, there’s so many more options for what might be causing that data to be suboptimal than what you would think of it first. So then of course you have to decide what to do.
Sam Falco: [14:03] It sounds obvious, but a lot of teams don’t get to that step. And I know when I was beginning as a scrum master 10 years ago, one of the things we realized was that our sessions, we never came up with a recommendation for what to do next. And no, there was no accountability. It was just a gripe session. Um, I mean we might come up with some, some things, but there was no accountability, no way to follow up on them. So we just tended to cycle through a lot of things over and over again. And I think this was before I discovered Esther Derby’s book. Uh, we were, we were missing that. We were, we were gathering data. We were generating maybe some minimal insights, but without any understanding of what we’re supposed to do with those insights. They were shallow and we didn’t get very far. It was just let’s, let’s around and Gripe for 90 minutes.
Dan Neumann: [14:53] That’s interesting because the, the pattern I see more often is that people just come up with too many things. So like, here’s the 15 things we want to do, which dilutes the focus in the and creates a, an unattainable expectation for how much change people are going to have. So yeah, there’s the, we’re not going to change anything or are we just were just venting and complaining. And then there’s those laundry most of our complaints, someone do something about this, right? Yeah. Or the laundry list of things that the team may be really does intend to do, but they also have day jobs and they’re trying to also deliver software products. And so as opposed to focusing in on on one thing.
Sam Falco: [15:33] Yeah. A fascinating thing I saw in one team was I had them, uh, I had come in to the organization I was at and this team was doing pretty well when I, when I came in. But one of the things that each of them said when I did a one on one with them was, you know, we don’t seem to have any effective results from our retrospect as we come up with stuff and it doesn’t get done. And so the next retrospective I ran with them, I, we got to the end and I, I had them narrow it down to three things cause they did tend to pick too many. And I said okay. And I read the first one, I said, who wants to be accountable for making sure this happens? I’m just dead silence. I said, okay. And moved a second one. And what it basically boiled down to was they all thought these were great ideas. Nobody wanted to actually do them. Uh, they want us to be asked to do it. And it was because they felt overworked. And so we had to, we were running out of room and running out of time and our room was about to be invaded by another team. But, uh, we had to do a mini retro all the retro right there and say, okay, so the problem is the real problem is all this stuff. We came up with this and how do we make sure that we’ve got time in our, in our schedules to be able to improve. And we had to solve that problem before we could get to some of the other problems.
Dan Neumann: [16:46] There’s a, a fable I suppose is the most accurate description of, of the mice who are sitting around having a complaint session about the cat and they’re like, if only the cat had a bell, like so we knew when the cat was coming, then we can all scale it back. And then then the one mouth says yes, but who will bell the cat? And it’s, it’s one of those things yet where the teams like, okay, we have a problem and a solution but it’s not actionable, which is another I think anti pattern. I see where, where people maybe have their hands tied or feel like their hands are tied.
Sam Falco: [17:20] Right. And sometimes that’s true. Sometimes what can come out of a retrospective as we have this problem and it, and it is outside of our scope of control and that’s fine. Um, what I do in those situations as a scrum master, of course then that’s something I need to take action on and identify the things, but ask them. So what is within your scope of control that you’d like to do differently? Is there an experiment you’d like to try and sometimes framing it in terms of it’s not necessarily we’re doing something wrong that we need to fix, but just something we want to try and see if it makes things better.
Dan Neumann: [17:55] Absolutely. The other thought that comes to mind with things that are in our control or trying to get people to look at what’s in their control is maybe that maybe that change right now is outside your control because nobody cares about it because they don’t see the impact of it. So what can you do to build some kind of case or gather some data or make the pain caused by that situation more obvious so that eventually, you know, maybe in a sprint or a month or a quarter or a year. Yeah, there’s enough impetus like making that change I think is the other thing. But I could see working well
Dan Neumann: [18:46] The last part of the framework that’s in the Agile Retrospective book is closing the retrospective. Uh, I know there are some activities like a appreciations, so sharing appreciation for your other teammates and I think that’s a, a nice positive way to close. Are, are there some, Yup. Notions for closing that come to mind for you, but you’ve seen be effective?
Sam Falco: [19:07] Um, yeah. So I want to echo what I said about the initial stages that closing the retrospective. It’s about getting people back into the mindset of, okay, I gotta go, I gotta code some stuff or actually I got to go prepare for sprint planning. Um, but yeah, I like the appreciations, especially if there has been some contention or some, some real hard work that has been done because of interpersonal conflicts. Uh, sometimes, especially if the team has had a brutal sprint where they got beat up. Uh, appreciation can also help because hey, we are, we are good at what we do and we are going to, you know, we’re going to like this and give them a positive weight of ending it. And another thing I have done with retrospectives is ask for feedback. For me as a facilitator, how was this for you? Was this a good use of your time and if not, what, what could I have done differently? So that can be a way of getting them out of the retrospective by having them give me the feedback so that the next retrospective will be better.
Dan Neumann: [20:07] Yes. The, the return on time invested or kind of the high points or low points of the retrospective? Yeah, definitely. Definitely valuable. One of the things I think I’m surprised about, so two years ago going on three years ago is when I realized that this, um, this book by Esther and Diana was, uh, over a decade old. It was just actually turning a decade old. I think it was published in 2006. And while they’re, there have been some new things. I’m, I don’t feel like there’s a ton of new structures that people are employing around the retrospective, some new tools, some new ways to maybe to do gathering data, the generating insights, deciding what to do. Have you seen anything that’s really got you excited from a framework perspective?
Sam Falco: [21:00] Uh, not really. Um, you know, I, I think that that, that five step process framework, however you want to call it, is psychologically sound. Now. It would be interesting to see if there was some psychological research around how that could be improved. I don’t know. Um, but no, I have not seen anybody do anything different as far as the basic structure. That’s that, that made me say, you know what, that is cool. That is, you know, that is a really effective, I’ve seen some things that were tucked in there. Uh, there was a tool, and I’ve forgotten the name of it, but one of the things that it did was it archived your last retrospective and it started with how well did you actually do in your last retrospective as far as following up. But I’ll say, these are the things you decided. Did you do them, rate it one to 10 and so you would very quickly get a get get, Oh hey, we’re, we’re actually not following up on these things. Highly visible. But that was simply part of the set the stage. It wasn’t another stage.
Dan Neumann: [22:07] Makes sense. And that brings up a good point. One of the, one of the ways to help teams actually do the follow-up is to make these do difference actually very visible. So I like writing the specific thing up on the flip chart, on a flip chart within your team room or adding it to your scrum board as something specific or a backlog item within the sprint. Really put out that idea and make it big and visible and maybe even touch on it periodically as part of your daily scrum or after your daily scrum. Just like, are we paying attention to the thing we said was valuable during our retrospective.
Sam Falco: [22:43] Yeah. And that’s why they made that change. And I was the most recent scrum guide update or the one before that where they, they specifically said that the output of the retrospective is it won at least one backlog item that goes into the next sprint backlog for the team to work on. Um, giving that guidance for teams who maybe weren’t doing it, but also giving them a little cover. If you’re in an organization that says, no, we only want stuff in the backlog that is product oriented. Uh, it gives scrum masters a way to push back and say, hey, you, you want us to do scrum? This is scrum, this is part of scrum and it, and, and then be able to have that conversation about why it’s important. So yeah, I love that idea of putting it in the backlog. I’m going back to my first team, once we realized we were doing these, you know, nothing but gripe sessions and, and someone asks the question, well, how can we, how can we get better at that? Um, we had an electronic tool, but what we did was just put up a, uh, in the team room. We printed out in like 72 point font, possibly bigger, just what our decision was. So there was every day when we came in and started talking about our, our, you know, what we were doing that day was also, by the way, this is what we’re supposed to be paying attention to as well. And it would frequently cause that conversation to happen, hey, are we still doing x?
Dan Neumann: [24:06] It’s a good way to build that accountability. Yeah. So within the structure we were sharing some resources that folks might want to know about. And so one of them that needed identified was retro mat, so at retromat.org. Yeah. What would you like to add about that?
Sam Falco: [24:21] I love this tool. Um, I stumbled upon it about four years ago and it’s just got a bunch of different retrospective games, but they are sorted according to the stages of the retrospective. So if you need an idea for an activity for uh, setting the stage and you’re kind of, the well is running dry, you can go there and look for just that, uh, or all of them. And it also has a little random button so you can just randomly generate a retrospective plan and some of them don’t work together and some of the Games are not ones I would use, but they always are thought provoking. And I love when I’m really, like I said, when the well is dry or I need something new, go hit that random button, see what comes up. And I’ve come up with some really cool retrospectives as a result of that.
Dan Neumann: [25:07] I do love the random button on there. Yeah. Right. And like you said, sometimes they won’t work. I’ll look at those and I’ll go, boy, that’s not my style. Maybe that’s something I need to get over is my discomfort with some of those things. But you spin it again and it just gets the juices flowing on that. One of the websites that I like to go to, it’s not really an agile site per se, it’s the Thiagi group. This man, he’s a professor at Indiana University and he creates games. For awhile he was creating a different game every day in publishing and some of them are better than others, but he has a really nice structure. He makes all those, those games, those activities for free that are there ones that take a long time, there are ones that um, he calls them. Um, jiggle isn’t the word that he uses for them, but it, but it’s a jolt. It’s a jolt and not a jiggle. So, but it’s, it’s a really quick activity just to kind of get the brain flowing and get people thinking and you can use those to, um, not just in retrospectives but in any other setting as well. A lot of good facilitation activities there. And then you’d also mentioned funretrospectives.com as a place you like to go to.
Sam Falco: [26:24] Yeah. It’s also, it’s got some activities that you can use. I don’t rely on that one as much as others, but I just wanted to make sure that people were aware that it’s out there and it’s got some, some really good stuff
Dan Neumann: [26:38] And we can put, uh, put that in the show notes and folks will be able to get that at the, uh, AgileThought.com/podcast where they can go find the show notes for this. Liberating structures I think is an interesting topic. What would you like to add about liberating structures?
Sam Falco: [26:56] I was just introduced to this by Becky Hartman. Um, it, it goes beyond the retrospectives it’s not really a retrospective focused website and it’s just, we’re different ways of getting people engaged. So frequently, one of the things we’ll have to deal with cause we’ve got introverts, we’ve got extroverts and how do you get these people to engage in a productive and safe manner and this has a lot of ways to mix up your, your meetings, not just retrospective of meetings. Um, one I like is a one, two, four, all so you have some time of silent writing where people reflect on the question at hand by themselves and they pair up. Then they get in groups of four and then you, then you go to the whole group. Now everybody’s had a chance to get their voice heard on a small scale. Also they may feel more comfortable moving from the pair to the quad to then the full group of, of speaking when they might not have been so keen on doing it before.
Dan Neumann: [27:50] That is one of those structures. Those mentioned by Christy Erbeck in a an episode we did with her on working agreements too, and that was one that she’d also mentioned as being particularly powerful. Some people think out loud, you know, the brain doesn’t work if the mouse is not moving. And then there are people who when other people are talking, they simply can’t process and neither one’s good, bad or better. But you need to create time for all the different thinkings. You know, the people who think silently, the, the people who have noise on, you know, sometimes I’ve been in workshops or sessions where they play the music when they ask you to do a thinking exercise. My brain doesn’t work that way. It’s like singing along to the song instead of writing, instead of processing things silently and writing them down. So really being aware of the structures that people are putting in place can either help or hinder the ability to contribute. And so yeah, liberating structures. I believe there’s a mobile app for that. They’ve made a lot of the structures, maybe all of them freely available. So, yeah, definitely check out the liberating structures. And then for people who like kind of ebooks and things that, um, the travel, well, there’s a book called “Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives”
Sam Falco: [29:02] By Luis Gonçalves and Ben Linders wrote that it, it derives a lot from Esther Derby’s book. Um, there’s a lot of stuff that’s in there that they took from Esther Derby’s book. Um, and we always say it’s Esther Derby’s book and forget Diana Larsen. But I mean Esther Derby wrote the forward to it. So I can’t imagine that, that she was unhappy that they were building on what she, she did. But, uh, it was nice. I did when he first was putting that out. Uh, he did all like a several week webinar series and, uh, the guy I was working for at the time and I both went through that. And then that had some, some good information in it. And, uh, I’ve, yeah, it’s good to have it in ebook format, I suppose.
Dan Neumann: [30:02] Definitely. There was one, sometimes props, for lack of a better word, or come in handy. And one of the things I wanted to share about was the Rorys story cubes. I know you’re familiar with those, but for folks who aren’t, they come in a little box, it’s nine cubes with little pictures on them and, and I like that it can allow people to come up with something they may be, hadn’t thought of. So the way we’ve used it in the past is, you know, you go ahead, you roll the dice and in this case I got a picture of like an arrow. And so showing Sam here on our little webcams. But then I might think of like how can we improve our aim within, within the team. So something I maybe hadn’t been thinking of before and now there’s a kind of a, a jolt, something different to get the thinking or maybe are we, are we living too dangerously trying to do the William Tell and shoot the apple off someone’s head instead of some safer alternatives.
Sam Falco: [31:02] And also they combine. So someone else gets another icon and the way I’ve used them is I draw boxes on the, on the whiteboard for the each one, for each person that is, tell the story of the sprint by taking the icon, you draw your, you know, you copy it basically into the spot in the sprint where this part of the store and people will say it might have gotten that arrow and someone else might have gotten a, I don’t know if it’s in the set you have, but I have, there’s a couple of expansions and won’t and that’s like a, it’s like a, a scarab beetle. Well where person was like, well we had a lot of bugs and then someone might take that arrow and say, and we, we slew the bugs and this is how we did it. So it can spark different, a lot of different interpretations. So yeah, I love those as a, as a technique for changing the way people think.
Dan Neumann: [31:51] Absolutely. So we’re going to do a bit of an experiment and we’ll see if, uh, see if the marketing folks are listening. Cause uh, you know, we don’t always ask for permission first. So what we’re gonna do is, um, for folks who either tweet with #AgileThoughtPodcast and mentioned the story cubes or email it to us with firstname.lastname@example.org and mention story cubes in the subject line, we will look to, uh, send out a box or two of those to folks. So a bit of an experiment and um, our gift to listeners, we’ll do it, we’ll randomize it somehow. I don’t want it to be a race, right? Some people might be working,
Sam Falco: [32:34] Something we did mention is, uh, I mentioned a tool that I had used an online, um, and I don’t remember the title, the name of that one that, that I had been using, but retrium.com I can’t say enough good things about this, this tool ever since I heard about it and I’ve experimented with that. It’s really, really good if you have distributed teams because a lot of retrospective activities are geared towards everybody’s in the same room and well, that’s in our distributed working world, that’s not always true. And so I’ve done things with Google docs and other online tools that always don’t always work the way they’re supposed to. First and foremost, retrium just works. It just, it just works the way you want it to. Uh, they have a bunch of different templates. There’s different styles of retrospectives you can run, so it’s really valuable. So I wanted to give a shout out to that. One of the things I like about retrium that takes it beyond, let’s say a Google doc or some other shared online thing, is it will add other people’s contributions until you’re ready to reveal them all. So with a Google doc, you see what everybody’s typing when they’re typing it, similar to the thinking silently or thinking out loud, it’s hard to really reflect on what you want to contribute if you’re reading what other people are writing as well. And so it prevents that from happening. And so I love that feature of.
Sam Falco: [33:57] I like that it shows you that the money is writing something and it’s just sort of blurry. So it actually, it gives you the, Oh yeah, I got it. Someone’s got something, I should, you know, it, it kinda is a kick in the pants if you need it.
Dan Neumann: [34:09] It’s like sitting around the table and seeing somebody jotting on the sticky note and ripping them off. It’s like, oh yeah, okay, yeah, people are participating and that’s a good sign and uh, I’m going to participate as well. So I know in a lot of episodes and in fact, I think every episode of this point I’ve asked other people what they’re reading. And this time I wanted to actually share something I reading that is loosely related to agility. I just need to recall the title of it. Yes. It’s called “Score Casting” and it’s the hidden influences behind those sports are played and games are won. And so it really looks at the numbers and the behavior within sports. So for instance, are umpires more or less likely to call a pitch a ball if the pitcher already has two strikes against the batter, or if there are three balls, are they more likely to call a strike? And, and we’re using a lot of the data that’s now available. They can actually, um, within major league baseball, they can actually see how much a ball moves and exactly where it is with this pitch FX data. And so now they can observe the behavior of umpires and they actually are less likely to call the fourth ball and where they’re less likely to call the third strike on pitches that are identical pitches given certain scenarios. We talk in the agile groups a lot about, you know, how metrics and how behavior will change unintentionally when you start putting in let’s say goals and when you start measuring behavior can it get certain adverse affects. And it’s really interesting kind of look in the sports world and see actual measurable data. Some of it which confirms assumptions like those of uh, an umpire and some of those that the takeaway things like home field advantage or really the why of the home field advantage. It’s a thing, but why is it a thing?
Sam Falco: [36:01] Yeah, I just, saw something recently a tangent. Pretty much on the same subject. It was, um, that referees, uh, tend to give the benefit of the doubt to the big six. I watch a lot of football, soccer, uh, and the big six and the premier league in England. So, uh, you know, a player for arsenal perhaps, uh, we’ll do something that won’t get a yellow card. The player will just get a talking to. Someone from Bournemouth, well that card just comes right the heck out of the pocket? And statistically, yes, referees are more likely to card teams on the bottom of the table than they are at the top of the table. Uh, and there’s been similar data to show that if a player has a one yellow card and another yellow card, will get him put out, they will be less likely to call a particular of a yellow card for us for the same offense.
Dan Neumann: [36:52] Absolutely. Yeah. And, and a major league, you know, that NBA thing, the refs do swallow the whistle at the end of the game and, and they’re able to go back and look at those particular behaviors. So yeah. So people interested in data and how it affects behavior. I like the book score casting and then you had something, Sam, I think you also want it to add.
Sam Falco: [37:16] Yeah, I, um, well I wallowed in fiction, uh, over the holidays because I’ve been reading so much, uh, so much stuff. I’m currently reading “Bluebird Bluebird” by Attica Locke, which is a mystery novel at one the Edgar Award for best, a mystery novel last year. And it is, it is so rich that I normally will blast through book in a day or two, a, a novel. And I had been reading this for over a week because I keep having to stop and just think about the beauty of the prose that I have just read. So if you’re a mystery novel fan, “Bluebird, Bluebird” is just a marvelous, marvelous book. Um, I have up next, I’ll be reading a, I just actually got the phone call before we got on that, that, uh, my copy of “Dare to Lead” is that the library waiting from your pickup. Um, and uh, so that’ll be my next read that, uh, Becky Hartman recommended to me.
Dan Neumann: [38:08] Nice. Yeah, Brené Brown. I know that that’s another book that seems to be getting, you mentioned a lot within the Agile coaching group at AgileThought, so I think that’s, I think I have it downloaded, but I haven’t consumed it yet. You consume at a much more rapid rate than I do, so I’ll forward to hearing your, uh, your CliffsNotes version of it later. All right. Okay. Well, thank you Sam for joining today and thanks to everybody do listen and we would love any feedback from folks.
Outro: [38:36] This has been the agile coaches corner podcast brought to you by AgileThought, get the show notes and other helpful tips from this episode and other episodes at agilethought.com/podcast.