This is blogpost III on work retrospectives.

At one of my clients, we are doing one week sprints.  Changing the way a team works every week, sometimes feels overkill. People want to see the effects of what they have.  For this we have decided to also try another kind of work retrospective.

A discussion workshop.

We don’t plan any actions in this one. We discuss some common statements. Actually common statement about agile that have been personalized for this team.

This was the format:

A) Checkin

mad, glad, sad, afraid


B) Discussion workshop

B.1 5 minutes explaining six different statements

  • we learn enough

  • it’s better to finish then to start

  • it’s important to be predictable

  • the quality of our work is excellent

  • in our team, we tell eachother everything

  • retrospectives are very useful


B.2 5 minutes silent sorting the statements: done by the full team, without SM or PO.


B.3 Divide team + SM + PO in two groups.


B.4 Take first statement


B.4.1 5 minutes of finding arguments

group nr 1: finding arguments why the statement is true

group nr 2:  finding arguments why the statement is false


B.4.2 Change groups (one person stays behind)

B.4.3 5 minutes of finding arguments

Group nr3 : finding arguments why the statement is true

Group nr 4: finding arguments why the statement is false


B.4.4 select your prefered position for this discussion. (might be the opposite of what you think yourself)

B.4.5 10 minutes of group discussion


B.5 second statement

repeat steps of B.4


Yves why do you still call this a retrospective, isn’t this just a workshop, training exercise?
Good question. I think it’s in between. We did this at the moment of a retrospective. We started by a check in that was very much related to the last sprint.
Second, as this is not yet a mature team, discussions are an important part of creating the team.
Discussions about more generic topics, instead of full force on hot issues in the team are more safe. So for me, it’s is part of improving the team. The big difference is that the improvement happen as part of the retro, that is why I put this inside my series of work retrospective.

Yves what is lacking, is a real conclusion/next step/action based on this exercice.
True. For the public version we want to play at conferences, we will experiment with an audience voting on who was the best debater.
Do you have a better idea how we could add a next step to this?

One Response to “Work retrospective III: Discussion workshop”

  1. Phil Bowker says:

    Thanks for these great ideas Yves!

    I tried the Discussion Workshop as a retrospective format for three teams for which I’m scrum master.

    Two of these teams are geographically dispersed, some members in India and some in Belgium. What I like about exercises with group activities is that splitting into groups maps nicely to the geographical split of the teams.

    Considering this was the first run through it went well. I needed a dry run with an example statement for all teams before they understood what was required, but the two more mature teams (also coincidentally the two dispersed teams) really engaged. The third team are experienced developers new to Agile and were rather cynical about the exercise, and as a result I don’t think this exercise is for Agile beginners.

    The most challenging part for the team members was arguing a position they didn’t believe in. They also wanted to argue semantics about certain words e.g. “The quality of our work is excellent”. Many wanted to know what “excellent” meant, and wanted to say the statement is true, even though in their opinion they only delivered “good” quality work, not “excellent”.

    That said the exercise was successful – the two teams that engaged had to be cut short after one hour, they were still in full discussion – and it is definitely something I will try again.