Thursday, February 19, 2015

Worksheet for an Agile retrospective using XMind

I've been running Agile retrospectives for years now, usually with just a whiteboard and some sticky notes, and that works great for facilitating the ceremony and discussions. However, there's one major drawback - it's a real pain to try and collect all that information and digitize it.

I've wanted a single sheet I could post in the team's workspace that represented our discussion and goals. I've wanted to be able to review notes from past retros without having to flip through a bunch of photos and try to make out people's chicken-scratch handwriting on stickys or the whiteboard. I've wanted to be able to easily share the meeting experience with remote team members. I didn't want to take all of the information collected during the meeting and re-key it into some other document to accomplish this (nor did I usually have the time to do that). I also didn't want to run the ceremony using a spreadsheet so I could fill it out as people were talking; how boring would that be!

I recently found a tool that finally fulfilled all the items on my wish list. A colleague on my last project introduced me to XMind, a free and easy-to-learn mind mapping tool. After watching him use it during a couple of design meetings, it struck me that this could be a great tool for retrospectives as well. So I set to creating my own retrospective worksheet, which you can download from the XMind Library.

If you're familiar with the basic Agile retrospective meeting format, it pretty much follows that same flow, with a couple of nuances:

What went well? - You'll notice I have an extra layer in here. I encourage the team to tie their positives to one of the four foundational components of Agile; each of these maps to a value statement in the Manifesto. You could also replace these items with team-defined values if that's how you roll. Either way, I think it's important to have some key values that your team can claim positive gains against.

Goals - I'm kind of a stickler when it comes to the Goals portion of the meeting. If we identified a problem at the last meeting, and set a goal to improve or correct it, I definitely want to review progress and/or results at the next meeting. The nice thing about the mind map format is that you can drag & drop items to different parents. So when it's time for a retro, you can just boot up the sheet from your last one, drag the "Goals - Next Sprint" subtopics to the "Goals - Past Sprint" topic box, and you're all set.

I hope you'll give my worksheet a try at a future retro, and that it solves some of the same problems for you that it has for me.