'The Retrospective Lexicon' in lockdown, with Paul Goddard

Last week Paul K Goddard of Agilify met with us and members of our Agile Games Workshop Meet-up via BlueJeans. Paul explained how his Retrospective Lexicon can be used, via video call, to create a more constructive retrospective and allow participants to access the content of their emotions.

The deck, now a part of the full range of agile tools by Paul, is a well presented box of 57 cards split into three sections: adjectives, emotions and actions. The exercise presented was similar to a bog standard Start Stop and Keep retrospective. Paul changed two things about it:

- He swapped the three categories for random words from one section of the Lexicon.
- Instead of asking about thing we did, or should do, he asked about events that had happened.

As a theme he chose the groups experience of the first week of full-lockdown and the proceeding week of partial-lockdown at the start of the UK's COVID-19 pandemic response. We had all spent this period getting used to working from home exclusively, staying safe, and dealing with psychological and logistical nightmares. Most of us were focused on common or at least similar goals during this time, so it was a great analogy for a Sprint.

Paul gave us a Google Jamboard space to collaborate. This is similar to Miro in that users can collaborate to move virtual sticky notes around, but is perhaps a little more responsive to input than Miro.

Within this framework we ran three 10 minute retrospectives, punctuated with commentary from Paul. It was obvious that the vocabulary used in each version of the same retrospective - adjectives, emotions and actions - elicited very different responses.

For the retrospectives focused on adjectives and emotions we recorded events objectively (describing them as they were) and Paul showed us ways to collaborate to make those into actions, such as by grouping and dot-voting using the tools in the Jamboard space.


Adjectives focused


Emotions focused

In the retrospective focused on actions - Paul switched back to asking for suggestions of actions to take, but gave us categories into which we had to fit our suggestions. This felt very useful in a complex chaotic environment like a pandemic. I can imagine this approach being very useful whenever a team is stumped and believe nothing is possible, or when they are struggling to choose what to do as there are very many options.

Actions focused

Once again, I observed how an external input, from a simple deck of cards, can completely rewrite how an intellectual problem is approached. Paper cannot make a team do anything, but at the same time, nobody seems to want to argue with a bit of paper.

The fact the Lexicon words are an external input, and in this case largely random, means they are easy to dismiss if you wanted to. But people don't because the same things make it entirely non-threatening.

A huge thanks to Paul for agreeing to do the session via video link and to everyone who joined making our first online event a great one!