A picture can inspire a thousand words

Use photolanguage activities to facilitate Scrum events

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Photolanguage is an activity in which we use photographs to facilitate reflection, expression of emotions, feelings, values, aspirations, and ideas in small groups.

Photos are displayed and participants look at the photographs that have been chosen to their capacity to stimulate imagination and select one image that resonates with them. Participants then share their reactions to the photograph, in relation to focus questions provided by a facilitator.

Most teams I worked with include at least one or two members who don’t say much when it comes to expression and giving feedback. I know they each have a lot to contribute but at every meeting, we have had, very few of them speak up, while others rarely participate.

As a facilitator, it’s quite challenging to get people to talk and to make sure everyone’s opinions and ideas are heard and problems are raised. But since I started running Photolanguage sessions with my teams, gathering everyone’s thoughts becomes less struggling.

I believe this exercise has a remarkable power to encourage personal expression and create spaces in which participants can engage and share their thoughts.

You can use Photolanguage as an icebreaker for Sprint retrospectives, at the end of a Sprint review to get feedback, at the end of training to focus on what was learned or simply as an activity apart as an energizer or teambuilding …

How do I prepare this activity?

As a facilitator, I tend to spend more time preparing for an activity than the time I spend on giving the actual activity, and that allows me to think of every little detail.

Below is all you need to do to prepare this exercise.

1. Choose and develop the focus question (or multiple questions)

It might be helpful to provide some examples :

  • Choose one photo that helps you describe your mood today (to start a Sprint retrospective or teambuilding for example)
  • Pick an image to describe your overall satisfaction with the product (to get some feedback during a Sprint review)
  • Select one photo to describe your experience with the product (during a usability test session with customers or Sprint review)
  • Choose two images to describe the beginning and the end of the previous Sprint (during retrospectives)
  • How did you experiment working from home this couple of months, select a resonate photo to describe so (might be asked during a retrospective or teambuilding by the end of this quarantine)

Make sure you’re asking the right question(s) and the topic to be addressed should be clear and specific.

2. Create a collection of images

Select photos that speak to the theme/topic that is being addressed.

You can use , , or other websites that provide free high-resolution images to choose the photographs.

Once you get your selection of images, you can print it if you’re running this activity within your company. In this case, you should get some space (a wall or maybe on the floor) to expose your selection so as participants can move comfortably as they view the photographs.

If you’re willing to run this activity remotely (I think this might be more appropriate in these circumstances), you can use , , or other online whiteboards…

You can find below an example of this activity I run using Klaxoon.

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Photolanguage activity, remotely using Klaxoon

How do I run this activity?

Few steps to follow while running the photolanguage activity.

1. Explain the purpose of this exercise to participants,

2. Ask the focus question(s) to participants and make sure that all have the same understanding of what it means,

3. Display the selection of photographs on the floor or use an online whiteboard,

4. Give the participants a few minutes to view the photos, in silence to avoid influencing each other,

5. Invite the group to choose and pick up one or multiple photos (depends on the focus question). One image can be interpreted differently depending on the viewer’s point of view, so I usually allow participants to select the same photos,

6. Invite participants to speak when they’re ready and share the significance of their choice, I usually give at least 2 minutes per participant (this is not an exercise to rush),

7. Thank everyone for sharing and if it seems appropriate, follow up with a group discussion about some of the ideas, thoughts, and feelings that came up.

Thanks for reading!

I hope you find this writing useful and helpful, let me know your thoughts and leave feedback.

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Agile teams facilitator & coach

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