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Agile2019 Retrospective with a twist (or Liberating Structures for the win!)

Updated: Mar 28, 2020

Starting retrospective with a Mad Tea

Ever since discovering the Liberating Structures earlier this year, I've been fascinated by their seemingly unlimited potential. By the same token, a limited extent of their current use in Agile space left me wonder how to facilitate a similar discovery for others. This blog is my experience report of putting them to use in Agile2019 retrospective.

Cool thing about Liberating Structures (LS), is that each one of them can be either used individually or be connected with a few other ones into a "String". Experienced LS workshop designer can weave them in a fit-for-purpose string to maximize their impact for participants.

LS String for Agile2019 retrospective

My goal for building Agile2019 retrospective string was twofold:

  1. Hold space for people to reflect on their own learning, focusing on the next steps for them.

  2. Bring up the group collective energy in this very early morning session (on Friday after massive conference block-party).

No doubt, as a program co-chair, I wanted to collect the feedback about conference overall, just didn't want to make it a central point of this retro. Since one of our experiments this year was an addition of a Self-care track (chaired by Sam Laing) it felt natural to change the focus of the retrospective.

We started retrospective with Mad Tea and had participants self-organise in two concentric circles. One question, one minute per pair, then switching to a new partner by taking one step to the right. We then repeated the sequence with five more questions and five more partners. Fast-paced, high energy. Yes, one may call it an ice-breaker. However, all the questions were intentional and helped the group re-focus on a fresh perspective and a self-reflective goal of this retro.

Next, we self-organized into groups of 4-7 people to practice TRIZ - a lightweight LS version of a much deeper theory

In LS TRIZ, the groups start with brainstorming of all the possible as well as outlandish ways they can achieve the "opposite" result. Specifically, for Agile2019 conference:

What can you do to guarantee that by the end of the month, you remember nothing from this week, you lost all inspiration, abandoned all ideas and lost a drive for change?

Next step was looking at this list together, recognizing and circling behaviours that we had a tendency to fall into after conferences. Here are a few ideas we collected from participants on how NOT to benefit from Agile2019:

How to NOT benefit from Agile2019

  1. Fail to connect with my new friends

  2. Don't review my notes.

  3. Don't capture any thoughts post-conference.

  4. Get back to work and be too busy to try new ideas.

  5. Fail and not try again.

  6. Only take practices half way.

Recognizing anything in this list that you do as well after a conference?

Try doing what we tried at retrospective - select your 15% solution and share it with a friend! This is how we wrapped up the Agile2019 retro - by focusing on a small step - 15% solution that each of us could do right now.

By sharing these "small steps" with at least three partners in the final Impromptu Networking liberating structure, participants gain feedback and commitment to take the best of their learning forward.

Still not sure if Liberating Structures are for you? Give them a try and share your experience.

In the words of feedback from one of the Agile2019 Retrospective participants there are:

Wow. Wow! WOW!!!

Useful links:

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