Story-fying the Retrospectives

Hello World,

I have been working with the agile teams for a long time. Agile has gifted a lot of meetings viz. planning, grooming, retrospective, etc. Retrospectives are one of the most powerful and often the most ignored meetings as they end up as boring and ineffective. Hence, a lot of engagement and innovation is required to reinvent the retrospectives. I came across Rory’s story cubes and thought to ‘experiment’ the same in my retros.

I purchased a few boxes of cubes and mixed the same to have diverse stories: 9 cubes in a box as per the recommendation.

Instance 1:
When I introduced the cubes to my first team say Team X: they migrated to the exploring mode — started seeing the different faces of the cubes. Then, they rolled the same. The first time it was too much silence.Then, we played the second iteration. To my surprise: amazing stories popped up — leading to unexpected yet true feelings. These stories start the conversations around the real issues which probably would have never happened otherwise.

This is the power of the Subconscious mind — like a child handling the music player software in your phone (there are 100s of icons for other apps) even when he/she does not know how to read.

Instance 2:

Another Retrospective, another team(say Team Y)! I was happy with the last experience! Hence, I thought of using the cubes again. When I demoed the cubes to the team, nothing happened!

Simply nothing!

A few of them kept silent, a few just mocked and nobody understand the working (modus operandi) of this activity. Perhaps, they were not creative, unwilling, feeling unsafe to talk or were not-in-mood.

Then, I changed the gears. I asked them one question:

“Give One word for the last week of work”. The trick is that you need to answer it ‘impromptu’. Again, the sub-conscious mind gets into the action.

The team members gave one word(s) and I wrote the same on the board. Then, we played the cubes activity again. Now, they had big cues on the board to help them make a story. Finally, they narrated good / effective stories for the last week and we generated insights and derived a few action points from the same.

Instance 3:

This time, the team was very creative. However, they had played the cubes in the past. To add more engagement and fun, I asked them to draw their perception of the last week of the work. Once they completed the drawings, they demoed to the rest of the team with a brief description. This unveiled a lot of insights in the retrospective. Finally, one of them rolled the cubes and narrated the story of the last week by getting the cues from the drawings and their descriptions. We repeated the same till a substantial amount of issues were highlighted.

Instance 4:

Also, I delivered a workshop at RallyON Conference at Phoenix, Arizona, USA. In this workshop, I showcased the same and the Audience (9 tables, 50 in count) started off to roll the cubes. Table by table: they narrated their stories of the last week. The audience was amazed to see the effect “in person”.

These cubes are indeed very powerful to fetch insights which normally exist deep-down. If these do not work out, you can tweak the play using drawings, picture cards, one word, etc. Also, these can be played by 2 sub-teams (within the team // 2 hypothetical sub-teams) and not being played on the personal level. One sub-team starts a story and the other one completes the same.

I really like these cubes. If you have any questions or you want to share your experience with the cubes and the feedback for this article, please write back.

If you learned something new or were inspired in any way, please consider sharing with your colleagues so we can together make a difference. If you would like to read more of my content, feel free to ‘Follow‘ and send me an invite via LinkedIn and follow me on Twitter.

I love coaching People, Teams and Organizations to high levels of performance in an Agile environment and I am a Curious Learner. I would be happy to connect with you. Please drop an email or leave a comment: I will get back to you! Thanks!

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