Lean Coffee Retrospective

Recently, I started allowing other people to run our teams sprint planning and retrospectives. So far, this has had numerous benefits for the team such as allowing more time for myself to do other important things, giving other team members an opportunity to learn and gain experience and most importantly is that it injects a dash of freshness into the process. In doing this, the retrospectives are not only kept new and exciting, but they also allow you to see what other ideas that people have and how they work out.

How It Works

The basic format of running a lean coffee retrospective is very similar to how a lean coffee meetup works. During the retrospective, my colleague who came up with the idea, added some of his own ideas to the process, which added a nice touch. The format that he ran was as follows:

Icebreaker

At the start of the retrospective you can have a form of icebreaker which warms up the team and helps promote interaction. Here are some examples of what you could do:

  • Give everyone some sticky notes and ask them to write three things about themselves, with one of them being fake. You then go around the table and your team members have to guess as to which one is fake. This is quite nice as it gives an opportunity for everyone to learn something about your team members.
  • Ask everyone to write down what colour they are feeling today. Each person then explains reasoning for this. You can also draw a picture instead of writing the colour, which achieves the same thing.

For other great ideas you can check out the the Fun Retrospectives site. They have a great list of ideas you can try out.

Coffee Time!

After the icebreaker has taken place, you can then start with the retrospective. Like I mentioned earlier, it follows a lean coffee format and for those of you who don't know, the format goes along the following lines:

  • On a board/wall create four columns, namely
    • To Do
    • Doing
    • Done
    • Actions
  • Everyone is given a set of sticky notes with which they have two minutes to write down something that they want to discuss.
  • Once the time is up, everyone gets up and places their sticky notes in the To Do column.
  • After this, everyone has three votes for the topics they want to discuss. A vote is made by placing a dot on the sticky notes of your choice.
  • You then take the top three items and move them to the Doing column.
  • You start with the highest voted card and the person who wrote it gives a brief overview of the item, after which everyone has five minutes to discuss it and find a potential resolution, if applicable.
  • At the end of the allocated time, everyone then votes to see if they want to continue discussing the topic or not. If they do continue, you allocate another few minutes to it and if not, you start the next topic. When you are finished the topic and you move it to the Done column and create sticky notes for any actions items that need to be done. These action items are placed in the Action column.
  • You continue the above process until you have either run out of time, or you have gone through all the cards.

Close Out

At the end of our retrospective, we have started a tradition of playing a funny or trending video that someone of the team has recently seen. It works out quite nicely in closing out the retrospective, while leaving people feeling happy and excited.

Overall, I can say that having different team members running the sprint planning and retrospectives has really worked out for us. I would highly recommend other teams let their team members run with the retrospectives and even try the method above. Lastly, I would love to hear about the different ways in which you run your retrospective.

Until next time...keep learning!

Mauro Da Silva

Learning everyday about software development, leadership & self improvement

South Africa