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Talking Retrospectives with Laurence Wood

Talking Retrospectives with Laurence Wood

We have been helping Laurence Wood launch his new agile team game 'Richer Retrospectives'. Laurence has worked with consultancies Syngenta, Indigo Blue and Mastek. He is currently helping the NHS deliver their 999 and 111 services through his company Agile Lozenge.

Richer Retrospectives is a deck of cards describing  behaviours common in project and engineering teams. Some of the behaviours are positive others are clearly anti-patterns. Users are invited to record how frequently each behaviour occurs in their environment.

We helped Laurence produce his decks and later caught up with him for some questions. Here is what he said:

Agile Stationery: How do you feel about the state of retrospectives in the industry?

Laurence Wood: I find most people get bored after a few months and then pay lip service to what I think is a fundamental continuous improvement tool. Teams happily talk about impediments outside their control but less often explore how THEY can improve as individuals and as teams. Even the best teams should want to improve.

Agile Stationery: Your game invites teams to focus on just one area or card. Do you not tend to find that teams have much more complex problems, with perhaps more than one cause?

Laurence Wood: Yes, problems are often more complex than they first appear. But that is why I encourage teams to decide where they need to focus next. By trying to improve one area it will be much clearer if you have succeeded then tackling lots of ideas scattergun.

Agile Stationery: Why did you create a set of cards for your retrospective technique? What role or purpose do they play?

Laurence Wood: I wanted something that would be obvious, simple and quick to adopt but have a wider and lasting impact outside of the retrospective. By posting them on the wall the cards show other colleagues the team’s view of our capabilities and our current aspirations.

Leaders can look on and spot trends or concerns common to many teams and so offer the right support or investment without teams feeling they are being audited or judged.

Cards are familiar so not threatening. Rather than comparing team maturity levels which I find damaging they can create a positive conversation about always improving.

Agile Stationery: Obviously you facilitate a lot of games and games is something you speak about in various conferences. What tips would you give to people who are facilitating a game to try and solve a business need? What makes a great facilitator?

Laurence Wood: Sometimes I don’t call it a game! State your purpose clearly and keep it brief. Know your audience if at all possible. Focus on a valuable outcome rather than trying to cover everything in your head in one session.

Listening is important and being brave enough to let the session go off in a different direction if it needs to. I find that if I enjoyed it then it went well.


Laurence Wood will be playing Richer Retrospectives with us on the evening of 19th June at PwC in London. Join us if you can!

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