Retrospective: Do the Team Radar

As a Scrum Master, I love trying out new and different Retrospectives. It prevent the monotony of always doing the same thing (like a regular ‘plus/delta’). And it offers a team a new and different perspective to evaluate the process and learn from it.

The ‘Team Radar’ is one of my favorites. It strikes a nice balance between reflection as a team and as an individual. It’s also one of the best methods to make transparent where a team agrees and where it doesn’t, automatically prioritizing what needs attention.

Setting up

Create a large Team Radar on a flip-over sheet or a whiteboard. Use the example above as inspiration. Add between 5 and 8 topics and create spokes for them. Feel free to add topics that you feel are relevant to the team. Sometimes I use mostly technical topics (e.g. ‘technical debt’, ‘refactoring’, ‘working software’). Sometimes I use soft topics (e.g. ‘trust’, ‘customer contact’, ‘collaboration’) or the Scrum Values themselves (‘respect’, ‘openness’, ‘courage’, ‘commitment’ and ‘focus’). Or I mix up different topics.

Next to the large Team Radar, create a smaller version (A4 or letter-format) that you can print as many times as there are members in the team. I usually create a smaller version on A4 with a permanent marker and photocopy it a number of times.

Doing the Team Radar

  1. Begin by explaining the purpose of a Retrospective. Re-iterate the ‘prime directive’ of Retrospectives. Make sure that people feel comfortable and safe;
  2. Proceed by explaining the purpose of the Team Radar. I usually say something like ‘The Team Radar gives us an opportunity to compare our individual perspectives on how things are going, and learn and improve from there’;
  3. Briefly discuss the topics that you’ve put on the spokes of the Radar with the team. Make sure there is a shared understanding. If the Radar contains a lot of ‘soft aspects’ (like ‘atmosphere’, ‘trust’, ‘courage’), I ask the team to identify key behaviors that exemplify these topics and write them down next to the keyword;
  4. Using the printouts of the Team Radar, ask everyone to individually rate the topics on the spokes (10 minutes). Do this on a scale from 1 (not going well at all) to 10 (going extremely well) and let people mark the score on the axis. Ask people to do this in silence. This way everyone has equal opportunity to reflect on how things are going;
  5. When everyone is done rating the axes on their individual printout, ask them to connect the dots/markings from the various axes (as per the example picture). This way everyone creates their own radar. Teams usually become very interested in each other’s results at this point, but ask people to refrain from sharing their individual results just yet;
  6. Ask the team to come forward (one by one) and draw their individual Radar on the Team Radar that's visible on the wall, flip-over or whiteboard (10 min). When possible, give everyone a marker with a different color to make it easier to identify who drew what line later on. Refrain from discussing the results just yet; it’s ok to build the suspense;
  7. Open the discussion of the Team Radar (45 min) by asking the team for general observations first. “Was it difficult to rate the topics?”, “What patterns are visible right away?”, “What surprises or shocks you?”. When the discussion doesn’t take off naturally from there, I help the team by asking specific questions: “On what topics do we (mostly) agree?”, “On what topics do we (mostly) disagree? What does this tell us?”, “What topics receive a low rate from everyone?”, “What individual scores are surprising? What does this tell us?”. Give people the opportunity to clarify their personal scores if they want to, but don’t force them;
  8. When you’ve discussed the results sufficiently, move into ‘action mode’. Ask the team to pick the two (or three) axes that warrant improvements most urgently. Discuss what specific actions can be undertaken in the upcoming sprint to improve the rating, starting tomorrow. Help the team to steer clear from vague, generalistic improvements like “We have to do X better”. Press the team to make it specific by asking: “What actions will you take starting tomorrow to improve X?”. A handful of specific improvements is more than enough. There’s always the next sprint to improve more. To keep things transparent, write down improvements on post-its and put them next to the Team Radar. Make sure to ask who will take ownership of coordinating each improvement;
  9. Wrap up the Retrospective by asking the team how they felt about this format. Was it useful for them? Did it yield new insights? Thank everyone for attending the Retrospective;
  10. Make sure to take a picture of the Team Radar when you’re done, and before wiping it off the whiteboard;

Tips

  • I don’t usually do the Team Radar with new Scrum Teams or teams where the level of safety is not sufficient yet. Because the Team Radar makes differences within the team very transparent, I want to make sure that the team can deal with this constructively;
  • It’s nice to do the Team Radar periodically and see where improvement is taking place;
  • I’m personally a big fan of electrostatic whiteboard sheets. You can buy them on a roll and prepare them at home. Due to their electrostatic nature, they will stick to most surfaces. I usually draw the Team Radar itself with a permanent marker, and use whiteboard markers during the actual Retrospective. This allows me to re-use the Team Radar by wiping the lines drawn with the whiteboard marker;
  • The Team Radar is also a great tool to reflect on larger issues within an organization. Bring together a diverse group of people and create a Radar with topics that are relevant to them. When the Radar is not applied as part of a frequent Retrospective, it's a good idea to reserve a bit more time to get the most out of it;

Enjoy this wonderful Retrospective, and in particular the discussions that it generates in the team. If you’ve got a cool result to show, let me know. Same goes for improvements and tips regarding this particular format.

Christiaan Verwijs
Christiaan Verwijs

Scrum Master, Trainer, Developer & founder of Agilistic