· retrospectives

Retrospectives: The 4 L's Retrospective

I facilitated the latest retrospective my team had last week and decided to try The 4 L’s technique which I’d come across while browsing the 'retrospectives' tag on del.icio.us.

We had 4 posters around the room representing each of the L’s:

  • Liked

  • Learned

  • Lacked

  • Longed for

I’m not really a fan of the majority of a retrospective being dominated by a full group discussion as many people aren’t comfortable giving their opinions to that many people and therefore end up not participating at all.

I’ve seen much more participation if the facilitator tries to encourage less vocal people to give their opinions and if the first part of the retrospective is done in smaller groups.

We therefore started in groups of three where people discussed the previous iteration and came up with ideas which they stuck under each section. That lasted for around 15 minutes.

After that we split into groups of about 5 - one for each of the L’s - and each group spent 6/7 minutes grouping together the stickies and looking for any trends.

One member of each group then presented a summary of their section to the rest of the group and suggested what they thought the most important thing to discuss was.

Having gone around all of the groups we now had 30 minutes to discuss the 4 topics we’d identified. In fact two of them were the same so we only had 3!

My observation of this style of retrospective is that it seemed to achieve the goal of getting more people to participate. At least 2 or 3 people who have never spoken in one of our retrospectives before were giving their opinions to the whole group.

I was curious to see whether we’d cover all the topics that people wanted to discuss as I cut the whole group voting system which I’ve seen used in most retrospectives I’ve attended.

After we’d finished discussing the 3 main topics a couple of other points were raised which had both been on the 'longed for' wall.

We ended up just quickly agreeing to give these things a try for an iteration instead of having a prolonged discussion about the advantages/disadvantages of the idea.

Facilitating wise I think I could have been clearer with my instructions as people were a bit confused at times about what exactly they were supposed to be doing.

I think it’s vital to get everyone in the group involved early on or they just zone out and their insight is lost.

I’d be interested in hearing other types of retrospectives people have run which allow you to do that.

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