Liberating Structures are easy-to-learn microstructures that enhance relational coordination and trust. They quickly foster lively participation in groups of any size, making it possible to truly include and unleash everyone. This story is about my experience in applying two Liberating Structures “Impromptu Networking” and “What, So What, Now What”, for facilitating a LeSS Overall Retrospective.
LeSS is Scrum. Large Scale Scrum is about figuring out how to apply the principles, purpose, elements, and elegance of Scrum in a large-scale context, as simply as possible. LeSS is
…applied to many teams
…on one product
At the end of the Sprint, all the teams have their individual Retrospectives. This is the same as a one-team Scrum Retrospective. Overall Retrospective is a new meeting in LeSS. Its purpose is to discuss cross-team, organizational and systemic problems within the organization.
We had our Sprint Review and Team retrospectives during the day. We started with a general introduction about what Liberating Structures are and soon proceeded with the first Liberating Structure- “Impromptu Networking”.
Liberating Structure- Impromptu Networking
We used the following two questions:
Each of the participants was given 2 minutes to think individually about the answers and note down on sticky notes. After that, they made pairs and shared the answers. They were given 2 minutes individually and a total of 4 minutes for the group. With that, we reached the end of the first round. We repeated the same with different partners in round two and three.
It was a very engaging and interactive session that brought up several pressing topics like vacation planning, communication between Teams, etc.
Liberating Structures- What? So What? Now What?
We started by splitting into two groups and moved on to the First Round. Every Participant had 3 Minutes for self-reflection, then 5 Minutes for preparing the flipchart as a group and 5 Minutes for presenting to the whole group.
It was not an easy task to use the ensuing questions beneath and take time to reflect on the output from “Impromptu Networking” since we were used to stating an issue and jump into an action point as the next step. The interesting output was a column whose heading was “What” and the themes ordered in rows after row. We found it easier to group them into clusters than the usually used lean coffee format.
In the next round, we repeated the same steps with the same timebox with a different set of questions: This step was a learning step for us since it motivated us to analyze a problem thoroughly without making any impetuous conclusions. Why vacation planning is important for the whole Team, What are the consequences if we don't do it on time, etc, for example, opened whole new dimensions for the discussion.
Here, we worked together to collectively answer the below question. This step was comparatively easier since we were used with the creation of action points from our previous overall retrospectives. To give an instance for an action point that we made collectively, was to make a rough plan for holidays and enter it into our common software tool before a fixed deadline.
At the end of the session, we emerged successfully with three Action points for our Organizational Improvement backlog. We finally decided to take one of them into our Sprint backlog for the next sprint.
A Retrospective is one of the four inspect and adapt meetings. In the past, we were using different retro formats from online sources like Retromat. The “Impromptu networking” served its purpose well acting as an icebreaker and in identifying a topic. “What, So what, Now what” empowered us by demonstrating how to approach a problem in a very systematic manner. Together they provided us a very enriching learning experience.
Note of Thanks
I would like to extend my vote of thanks to Ionut-Adrian Bejenaru for his coaching and motivation. Willem-Jan Ageling, Sjoerd Nijland, Rohit Ratan Mani, Marty de Jonge, and Roy Klein for the kind review and never-ending motivation.