Using different formats for your Sprint Retrospective is a great way to help a Scrum Team inspect their process through different lenses and perspectives. While preparing the format for an upcoming Sprint Retrospective with Scrum Master Paul Bertens, we came across the Weather Forecast Retrospective by Barry Heins. It was so much fun that we decided to share our experiences and share our (slightly modified) approach.
The power of this format lies in how it uses a fun metaphor to shift focus from simply looking back, to how the team expect things will go based on how things have played out so far. In effect, it is more forward-looking. The team greatly appreciated the thematic approach and used the metaphor to have an excellent conversation about improvements.
- Bring a printed map, or draw one on a whiteboard. As we did this format with a team from the Aa & Maas water authority in the Netherlands, we used a map representing from their region. This made the format even more recognizable;
- But you can also use a map of your country, a fictitious country or the world;
- Define a number of themes and divide them over the countries/states/regions. We used the Scrum Values. But you can use whatever themes are relevant to the team;
- Prepare one set of post-its with weather icons on them for each group (see below). We printed a set of existing weather icons;
- Fog / misty
- Light rain
- Heavy rain
- Begin by re-iterating the purpose of the Sprint Retrospective. Why are we doing this? Why is it important?;
- Introduce the format. Make it a bit playful; “We’re going to forecast the weather for our team”;
- Form groups of two to three people. Three groups tends to work best. If you use this format with a Scrum Team, it is advisable to have the Product Owner create its own forecast from his/her perspective;
- Depending on how clear the themes are, take some time to discuss the themes. We used the Scrum Values, so we first reflected in pairs on what they meant to us (in terms of behavior);
- Give the groups 10 minutes to forecast on the weather for the various themes based on how the current Sprint went. Give some examples: “Do you expect to continue running smoothly?” (sunny)? “Will we be in deep trouble?”(thunderstorm). Or “Do we have no clue how this will turn out?” (misty). Invite teams to be creative with how they explain their weather forecast; it is not about picking the best-fitting weather, but about the conversation that ensues. Have the teams stick post-its with the weather icons across the map;
- With the entire team, have the groups present the weather according to them (10 minutes);
- First individually, identify actionable improvements to prevent the expected weather in the places where its worst (relatively) (2 min). Ask: “What can we do right now to either turn the forecasted weather or its effects around?”. Then continue to build on those ideas in pairs (2 min) and then in pairs of pairs (4 min). With the entire team, decide on at least one actionable improvement. Make sure to refresh the actionable improvement during the Sprint Planning;
- If the teams feels up for it, have them present the weather as if they are weathermen. It adds some good opportunities for laughter and fun;
- In the original format, Barry Heins suggests to also add the temperature to the various states/countries/regions to indicate team happiness with the various themes. We left this part out for simplicity and because we used another approach to ascertain team happiness with various themes;
- Weather is a chaotic, unpredictable system. You can invite the team to also add a number to weigh how certain they feel the prediction is based on what they know. 100% means “We’re absolutely sure this will happen” and 5% means “It might happen”. When you anticipate a lot of ‘bad weather’, you can help the team to focus their discussion on the expectations that are very likely to happen;
Full credits for this format go to Barry Heins. We only modified his format a bit to make it more forward-looking and use a Liberating Structure to identify improvements.