Plenty of Agile teams do Sprint Retrospectives  or some sort of reflection activity at the end of every sprint, cycle or iteration. And this is a wonderful practice to help the team get into a state of innovation (aka a learning mode). Unfortunately, many agile teams or non-agile teams get into a rut. They do the same retrospective activity over and over again. Two such activities seem to be more repeated, including: Pluses & Deltas – where each person identifies things that went well and things that need to be changed, and Mad Sad Glad – where each person identifies things that made them angry, unhappy, or happy.

We must flex our creativity muscles…

One retrospective activity that I recently created (may be similar to others) is called Doodle Your Thoughts. This simple, yet powerful technique allows for participants to express themselves with visual icons and words (called doodling or the visual alphabet), and then allows for discussions. This is how it works.

Sunni Brown - The Visual Alphabet

Sunni Brown – The Visual Alphabet

Materials needed:

  • writing utensils (pencils, pens, coloured pencils, etc.)
  • something to doodle on (paper, cards, post-it notes, etc.)
  • page showing The Visual Alphabet (I prefer the content from the Doodle Revolution by Sunni Brown)
  • page showing The 12 Devices of Visual Notetaking (again by Sunni Brown)
Sunni Brown - The 12 Devices

Sunni Brown – The 12 Devices

Setting the Stage for the Retrospective (about 5 minutes):

  • Explain how each person has the ability to express their thoughts and feelings in various formats
  • One such format which is underdeveloped in most people is through visual expression
  • We will be doing the retrospective using something called “Doodling” to flex a different part of our brains

Running the Retrospective (about 30 minutes):

  • Each person will get something to doodle on and access to various writing utensils
  • We will have about 5 minutes each to doodle our thoughts and feelings about the last period of time, feel free to refer to the visual language and the 12 devices pages for inspiration and tips on how to start or continue your doodle
  • Once the time is up, each person will showcase their doodle to the rest of the group
  • The group will ask question about the doodle
  • Then rotate through the next person, and so on
  • Once everyone has had a chance to display and explain their doodle, the entire group will discuss any unifying thoughts, feelings, concepts or ideas that pertain to more than one of the doodles
  • Then the group will identify any actions that can aid in its’ own advancement

Once the Retrospective is Complete (about 5 minutes)

  • Ask for feedback about the experience
  • Explore how this type of retrospective allowed the group to explore in a different way
  • Share any learning and feedback with other group so that they may try it as well

Well that is it – short and simple. Feel free to change up the steps or the length of the Doodle Your Thoughts retrospective.

Have a wonderful day!

Warm regards,

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