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Gunslinger’s Retro — a fast agile Retrospective

One nice evening a team member told me: “tomorrow morning see if you can do a quick retrospective”. After “scruming” for 18 consecutive two-week sprints I could definitely relate to that.

Next morning comes, and while commuting on the train on my way to work, I finally figure out what to do… “Hero’s Journey styled-retro” in the old wild west (sort of!)

A lone gunslinger appears at the edge of town

As soon as the team was settled in the room + conf-call + shared screen I went through the purpose of the retrospective in my best “movie trailer” voice. Every member should imagine that they are a gunslinger that come to town to sort out the people’s troubles. As they enter the village, the first arc of the story begins…

Arc #1 — The Henchman

Because I needed this to be fast, I ask them to give me the only one thing they perceive as a nuisance, problem or a threat to their daily activities… In other words, to identify who/what is the “henchman” currently harassing the good’ol folks at the saloon! Time box — one minute or the villagers may not survive…

Now with a list at hand and reviewed in group lets order by — “bullet” votes! I mean,what kind of gunslinger would you be without a revolver? In total, I gave them 12 votes (6 bullets per revolver) but I suggest we use 3 per round. After the dust is settled, we see which is the most “voted” henchman and quick him out of town.

Arc #2 — The Nemesis

Now, we all know that defeating the henchman is just the beginning and that behind him lies the real threat, aka the Nemesis. Now I ask the team to dig a little deeper and try to find out what is the likely cause behind the most voted topic. For this part I gave them 2 minutes to collect their thoughts, and after a brief group discussion we select (via bullet votes) the most probable Nemesis.

Sure enough, the henchman always comes back to town with the full gang, and one needs to prepare some counter measures…

Arc #3 — The Showdown

So lets prepare for the comeback of the evildoers. At this stage I asked them for hypothetical counter-measures to tackle the problems we’ve discussed before. I gave them 3 minutes to think about them individually… In hindsight it probably would have been better to do this in small groups. We didn't collect as much I would like (all part of the learning process). Once the list is gathered, we spent some time looking into it as a group, deciding which could be implemented or not in the near future in order to guarantee focus. We also did a little clustering at this stage because two of the counter-measures were quite compatible and required little effort. The only thing left was to actually to put the defence strategy plan into motion…

Act #4 — The silver bullet

One definition of silver bullet is:

Any straightforward solution perceived to have great effectiveness [or bring miraculous results.]

The goal of the last part was to find easy and simple solutions we could try out in the next sprint in order to start trying to sort out some of the problems. We continued to use the format of individual reflection plus group discussion. Another round of shooting votes and we were done with our actions for implementation in the next sprint.

Hope this format helps you out on keeping things light, fresh and fast (we were able to finish 30 minutes before the time-box) in your teams retrospectives.

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A candid, straightforward and laconic father of three. Servant Leader in training.

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