How to run an agile mythbuster retrospective

co-designed & authored with Victoria Schiffer.

Myths are wonderful stories. They validate assumptions, and make it easy for us to not put too much energy into much of anything. Unfortunately, myths are also ghosts and can be roadblocks to progressing professionally. If your team keeps coming up with ‘excuses’ for not improving their agile capabilities then it’s time to do the Mythbuster Retrospective!

Session Preparation

  1. Prepare some myths.

First gather myths for discussion. You can use some of ours we’ve been gathering here. Or you can use those ‘excuses’ people keep throwing around.

Prep at least 6 for an hour session. If you get through them quickly, awesome. If not once you’ve done a few people will be throwing up more to work through in the remaining time.

2. Prepare Counter-Myth a.k.a — the truth

Prepare an articulate comparison between the myth and the truth. Provide evidence for each of ‘the truths’. Evidence is best served scientifically, visually and culturally relevant. If you can’t have all three, do try for at least one. This is important because your ‘new truth’ must outweigh the belief in the ‘old myth’ and people must BELIEVE the truth. It’s hard to dispute evidence.

3. Prepare Materials

Each participant will need a Mythbuster worksheet and pens

Mythbuster Worksheet

4. Prepare Session Flow

We followed a simple pattern to guide people from their old thinking to their new thinking: Present Myth, Present Truth, Reflect, Review, Action.

Session flows or workshop patterns are great to consider because they help with the momentum of conversation and give you a fallback flow. i.e. patterns are cyclical and can allow for extended chats without disrupting the agenda.

Retrospect Like a Coach

The difference between retrospective conversations and retrospection like a coach is that we use the full spectrum of our capabilities to poignantly optimise the insights people gain from our time together. That is, we want sustainable impact, not just reflective insight. We structured a mythbuster model to ensure rigour in the coaching. The model intentionally incorporates elements from teaching, facilitation and coaching.

Using the full spectrum of coaching capabilities to ensure mindset shift.

During the Session

Teaching Myth & Truths.

  1. The myth statement is simply that you call it what is. No fancy dressing it up — just share the quote bluntly. Don’t label it with your opinion, don’t throw in blame or editorial blah blah. State it like it’s fact and don’t make people wrong for believing it. It is what it is so get on with it. The example of the myth is also presented as a fact. Use an example from the team’s space — this is what it is and this is the impact of that. FULL STOP. It’s easy to judge those who still believe the earth is flat so be careful not to.
  2. The truth statement is the counter point. It could be a principle, a quote from an expert, or a rule of practice. Add in evidence; either in the form of a study report, scientific fact, or visual evidence. The example is best pulled from a relevant scenario, one they’ll relate to.

FOR EXAMPLE:

Myth: We’re too busy to learn agile

Truth (Teaching): “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” (Abraham Lincoln)” — Taking time to stop and improve will make you faster in the long run.

Evidence: Tell a story relevant to your coaching experience that your audience will resonate with. In this myth I’ll tell the Telstra-NBN agile teams outcomes after they stopped believing they were too busy to learn — https://www.slideshare.net/stephaniebysouth/enterprise-program

3. The reflection can be started by posing a question that pulls the truth into their world. Make it relevant to their work context to help guide them.

Facilitating reflection is important as this is where people start to ‘see’ their world differently. Allow time for people to process the new data. Some of the types of questions we used were “How does the myth hold true for you?” and “With fresh insight what impact has not playing out the truth had?”

Reflect & Record (Facilitate): Ask questions like “What is your axe that you could sharpen regularly? How can you sharpen your axe?” — People in the room reflect on these questions individually, record their insights in their worksheets and share with their neighbours. The benefit of reflect, record and share is that the insights are seeded for change in the mindset. Often adults speed over learning without giving themselves a chance to apply that learning. This process ensures they can and will apply their learnings.

4. Giving an action for people to try is important to the sustainability impact of the new insight. Be sure to encourage recording of their experiment; sharing with a neighbour; and then sharing with you as part of your next coaching conversation. It’s one thing to bust myths in a room, it’s another for people to challenge them in the workspace.

For Example:
Review (Coaching): Individuals and/or team pick their favourite experiment/action to work on in a chosen timeframe. 
Define a time to check-in with them after the chosen timeframe to see how they were going with their action.

5. Close the retrospective with group sharing of individual insights and learnings, their aha-moments, as well as the chosen actions. This is an opportunity to add levels of vocalised group accountability. It also gives everyone a chance to learn from others who may not have been at your table.

6. Gather feedback on the retrospective format and facilitation itself. Allowing time in the session before people run off reduces the overhead on everyone.

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