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Use AI for Retrospective ideas

    Running the Sprint Retrospective always in the same way (e.g. “What went well, what didn’t go well, what can we improve?”) is not going to provide much insight after a few times. The questions become stale, and the retrospective feels mechanical.

    A good Scrum Master changes the retrospective exercise every time. By doing so, they can help the team members see issues from different perspectives, come up with new ideas, and identify areas of improvement that were hidden before.

    However, coming up with new ideas and exercises for retrospectives is not an easy task. Yes, there are tools and websites that can help, but that still requires some effort.

    I asked Bard, the generative AI engine from Google, to provide some suggestions. I started with a simple question, and got the usual answer.

    Then, I pushed Bard to think a bit outside the box, and it started generating new ideas for retrospectives that are both unusual and though-provoking.

    If you want to try on your own, copy and paste the prompts below into Bard, and read the results.

    I’m sharing below the results.

    Prompt 1: “Suggest a good retrospective exercise”

    Bard’s response:

    A good retrospective exercise is one that is engaging, informative, and productive. It should help the team to reflect on what went well, what could be improved, and what they will do differently next time.

    One such exercise is the Start, Stop, Continue retrospective. This exercise is simple but effective, and it can be used by teams of any size.

    To do this exercise, start by writing down three columns on a whiteboard or flipchart: Start, Stop, and Continue. Then, ask the team to brainstorm a list of things that they would like to start doing, stop doing, and continue doing in the next sprint.

    Once the team has finished brainstorming, take some time to discuss each item on the list. Why does the team want to start, stop, or continue doing each thing? Are there any patterns or themes emerging?

    Finally, the team should agree on a few action items that they will implement in the next sprint. These action items should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

    Here are some examples of Start, Stop, and Continue items:

    Start:

    • Daily stand-up meetings
    • Code reviews
    • Test-driven development

    Stop:

    • Working late hours
    • Multitasking
    • Cutting corners

    Continue:

    • Pair programming
    • Retrospectives
    • Celebrating successes

    The Start, Stop, Continue retrospective is a great way to get the team thinking about how they can improve their workflow and processes. It is also a good way to build consensus and commitment to change.

    Another good retrospective exercise is the Sailboat retrospective. This exercise is a bit more creative than the Start, Stop, Continue retrospective, and it can be a lot of fun for the team.

    To do this exercise, start by drawing a picture of a sailboat on a whiteboard or flipchart. The sailboat should be sailing towards an island, which represents the team’s goal.

    Then, ask the team to identify the things that are helping the sailboat to move forward (e.g., good communication, clear goals, effective tools and processes). These are the team’s strengths.

    Next, ask the team to identify the things that are preventing the sailboat from moving forward (e.g., lack of communication, unclear goals, ineffective tools and processes). These are the team’s areas for improvement.

    Finally, the team should brainstorm some ideas for how they can overcome their areas for improvement and reach their goal.

    The Sailboat retrospective is a great way to help the team to visualize their progress and identify the things that they need to do to achieve their goals. It is also a good way to get the team thinking creatively about how they can improve their workflow and processes.

    No matter which retrospective exercise you choose, the most important thing is to create a safe and supportive environment where the team can share their thoughts and feedback honestly.

    Prompt 2: “Suggest non typical retrospective exercise”

    Bard’s response:

    Here are some non-typical retrospective exercises:

    Mad Libs retrospective:

    This exercise is a fun and creative way to get the team thinking about what went well, what could be improved, and what they will do differently next time. To do this exercise, simply create a Mad Libs template with prompts related to the team’s work. For example, you could have prompts like:

    • My favorite thing about this sprint was [adjective].
    • One thing I learned this sprint was [something].
    • One thing I would like to do differently next sprint is [something].

    Once you have created the template, hand it out to the team and have them fill it in individually. Then, read the completed Mad Libs aloud to the team. This is sure to get some laughs and get the team thinking about their work in a new way.

    Image retrospective:

    This exercise is a great way to get the team thinking visually about their work. To do this exercise, start by collecting a variety of images related to the team’s work. For example, you could collect images of successful teams, images of teams facing challenges, and images of tools and processes that the team uses.

    Once you have collected the images, display them in a prominent location and have the team take some time to browse through them. Then, ask the team to choose one image that represents their experience of the sprint.

    Once the team has chosen an image, ask them to share why they chose that image and what it represents to them. This exercise can help the team to identify patterns and themes in their work, and it can also help them to identify areas where they can improve.

    Storytelling retrospective:

    This exercise is a great way to get the team to share their experiences and learn from each other. To do this exercise, start by asking the team to share a story about something that happened during the sprint. The story can be positive or negative, but it should be something that the team member learned from.

    Once the team member has finished sharing their story, ask the rest of the team to share their thoughts and reactions. What did they learn from the story? How can the team apply the lessons from the story to their future work?

    This exercise can help the team to build empathy for each other and to learn from each other’s experiences. It can also help the team to identify patterns and themes in their work, and it can help them to identify areas where they can improve.

    These are just a few examples of non-typical retrospective exercises. There are many other creative and innovative ways to run a retrospective. The most important thing is to choose an exercise that is appropriate for your team and that will help them to achieve their goals.

    Prompt #3: “Suggest an innovative retrospective exercise”

    Bard’s response:

    Here is an innovative retrospective exercise that you can try with your team:

    The Retrospective Escape Room

    This exercise is a fun and engaging way to get the team thinking about what went well, what could be improved, and what they will do differently next time. It is also a great way to build teamwork and communication skills.

    To do this exercise, you will need to create an escape room environment. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as by setting up different stations around the room with puzzles or challenges that the team needs to solve in order to escape.

    Once you have created the escape room environment, divide the team into small groups and have them start working on the puzzles and challenges. As the team works through the escape room, they will need to communicate and work together in order to solve the puzzles and escape.

    Once the team has escaped from the escape room, bring them together for a debriefing session. Ask the team to reflect on what went well, what could be improved, and what they learned from the experience. You can also use the debriefing session to discuss how the team can apply the lessons they learned to their future work.

    Here are some ideas for puzzles and challenges that you can use in your retrospective escape room:

    • Puzzle: Give the team a puzzle to solve that is related to their work. For example, if the team is working on a software development project, you could give them a puzzle that requires them to write a piece of code.
    • Challenge: Give the team a challenge to complete that is related to their work. For example, if the team is working on a customer service project, you could give them a challenge that requires them to resolve a customer complaint.
    • Communication exercise: Give the team a communication exercise to complete. For example, you could have the team play a game of charades or have them try to communicate a message to each other without using any words.

    You can customize the escape room environment and the puzzles and challenges to fit your team’s specific needs and interests. The most important thing is to create an escape room experience that is challenging, fun, and educational.

    I hope this innovative retrospective exercise helps you and your team to have a productive and enjoyable retrospective!