poniedziałek, 16 grudnia 2013

Good/Bad .vs. Appreciative Inquiry Retrospective

Lately I had a great chance to participate in a Coach Retreat session organized by Oana Juncu with cooperation with Code Sprinters in Krakow. The idea of coach retreat is nicely described on Oana's blog hence I won't be describing it here.

The thing I wanted to write about is a way how we can use one of the coaching techniques (called Appreciative Inquiry) while doing Agile Retrospectives.

The main idea behind AI to focus on the place we want to be and ways of how we can get there (as oppose to focusing on problems that we can find on the way). The best way to understand new technique is to compare it with something we already know. Let's compare regular problem solving approach with AI:

One might think that it is just a re-wording, a game of words but I perceive it more as a mindset. The founder of AI David Cooperrider in his article Appreciative Inquirey in Organizational Life states that over-focusing on a problem-solving techniques can actually limit your imagination and kill your potential that is actually needed to overcome difficulties. There is a danger that you will start perceiving a step as a goal, loosing the original goal out of sight. Sometimes it even happens that the more you are focused on a problem, the more you bound yourself to it and the more difficult it is actually to deal with it.

One of the biggest problems with retro is that while discussing current situation/problems teams fall into a fin-de-siecle mood: we've had these problems, we still have them, basically we're in deep shit and nothing can be done about it. AI technique does not allow for such mood to enter the room.

Here is a proposal of how your retro board could look like (it's taken almost precisely from wiki article about AI):

Design part which is about planning and prioritizing a process that would work well wasn't on the board when we were doing this style of retro but it was the discussion that was happening in the room.

One problem we as a team had with AI style retrospection is that we felt really uncomfortable talking about our strengths, and we left this row almost empty (only one sticky-note appeared there).

All in all, I must say that I have a great team that does really rarely fall into negative (not-constructive) mood hence it might have been easy to introduce such type of retrospection.
On the other hand I can imagine that such type of retro can serve well for team which often fall into such negative mood but it may require a skilled scrum master to shape the discussion using appreciative inquiries.