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Have you ever tried applying the Scrum framework to your own life? To get experience with the Scrum framework, for the past six weeks I’ve been organizing my life using Scrum. I’ve been doing one-week sprints, and I have my own daily standup, and a review and a retrospective at the end of every Sprint.

The experience has been fascinating. I’m learning a lot about Scrum, of course, and I’m using JIRA so I’m learning how to do what a Scrum Master needs to be able to do in JIRA.

Trying Different “Main Courses”

At first, doing a retrospective seemed odd, because I’ve mostly been a team of one. But even with a team of one, you can benefit from a retrospective. Here are the three different activities I’ve been doing for the Main Course of the retrospective. They’re all from I’m using the standard 7-step agenda for retrospectives, from

Start, Continue, Stop.

In this exercise, each person on the team makes three lists. One list is all the things they think the team should start doing; the second, what they think the team should continue doing; and the third, what the team should stop doing.

I like this one. It’s simple and easy to execute. There are variants with more than three categories, if you want your team to analyze the sprint with more granularity.

One thing I noticed right away was that entering issues into JIRA using the interface took a lot of time, so I realized I needed to start finding ways to batch upload. Now I create my issues in Excel and import them into JIRA; it’s a lot faster.

However, this exercise didn’t encourage me to think about the reasons why I wanted to start, continue, or stop anything. I ended up thinking about my reasons why, anyway.

I think this exercise is a good, basic retrospective exercise for a new Scrum team. More-experienced teams might enjoy it as a change from what they’ve been doing.

House of Straw, House of Sticks, House of Bricks.

This exercise is named after the fairy tale of the Three Little Pigs. As with Start, Stop, Continue, each person on the team makes three lists. The first list, the House of Straw list, is a list of everything the team does that you think is flimsy or might fail at any point. The second list, House of Sticks, is a list of everything you think has a good basic structure, but needs improving. The third, House of Bricks, is everything you think is consistently reliable.

This exercise had me thinking about processes more than Start, Continue, Stop. Although it didn’t get me thinking about whether the things I was doing were worth doing, I did think about specific ways to do things better.

This exercise is good for helping the team evaluate processes and how they (the team members) work with each other.

Pleasure, Pain, Loss, Gain

In this exercise, you start by drawing a pair of axes on your whiteboard, an x-axis and a y-axis. You label the x-axis with “loss” at one end and “gain” at the other; the y-axis is “pleasure” at the top and “pain” at the bottom.

Each member of the team thinks of all of the activities they do in their work, and write each one on a Post-it note. Then they place each Post-it in the two-dimensional space on that graph, wherever they think it belongs.

Anything that’s in the pleasure-gain quadrant, is probably something you should keep doing. Everything that’s in the pain-gain quadrant, you should try to find a way to do it that you take pleasure in, since you gain by doing it. Anything that’s in the pleasure-loss quadrant, you should see if you can make it a gain for you and your team; if you can’t, you’re just doing something you take pleasure in but that results in a loss, so you should stop doing it. Anything that’s in the loss-pain quadrant, you should stop doing! It’s not benefiting you or your team. Or you could look for a way to transform it.

I found myself looking at the things I get pleasure from but that I didn’t gain anything by, and thought of ways I could make them work to my gain. And the things that I gain by doing, but that I find painful to do, I began thinking of ways I could change how I do them so they wouldn’t be so painful, or else give myself a reward after doing them. And one item in the loss-pain quadrant, worrying about the future, I decided to stop doing!

Do this exercise if your team needs to do some soul-searching. It would be good for a team that represses its emotions, or that’s stopped caring about the work they do, or is doing a lot of things that they enjoy but that don’t benefit the team. It can also help people face their fears, and while as a scrum master you’re not a counselor, help helping your team find ways to tackle what they’re uncertain about helps them grow.

In Summary…

I’ve enjoyed trying these Main Course activities of retrospectives, and I’m glad I’m giving myself the experience of doing them before I lead a scrum team in doing them.

What are your favorite Main Course activities for retrospectives?

Up the Mountain, Down the Burn-Down Chart
When a Self-Organizing Team Succeeds, it Might be an Accident

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