The Retrospective Radar: A Unique Visualization Technique for Agile Teams

I give away as much as I can because I believe I will always be hired not for what I know, but for the way in which I know it. Such is the case with my Retrospective Radar, a concept I created for working with Agile Sales teams who suddenly found themselves working fully remote due to the COVID pandemic.

The Retrospective Radar is a visualization tool and technique for teams to reflect together in a spirit of continuous improvement. By highlighting what’s working and what’s not working, the Retrospective Radar combines a weekly team reflection (Retrospective meeting) for both prioritizing upcoming work and for providing feedback to immediate supervisors and up-line leadership so that those doing the work directly affect the strategic planning for responsive pivots in the market. It is based on the principles of Agile and borrows some of the terminology (such as ‘Retrospective’ and ‘Iteration’), so an understanding of the Agile umbrella-thinking and the frameworks of Scrum and Kanban are helpful.

The MURAL (interactive digital workspace) template for the Retrospective Radar

HOW THE RETROSPECTIVE RADAR WORKS

  • The Retrospective Radar is a more efficient meeting model and work results visualization tool. It combines the Retrospective meeting and Iteration Planning meeting into one team meeting instead of two separate meetings.
  • The Retrospective Radar is worked on simultaneously by all team members so that shared insights can influence everyone’s learning curve and affect desired outcomes.
  • The Retrospective Radar provides actionable steps for prioritizing upcoming work for the very next iteration.
  • The Retrospective Radar provides management with actionable feedback and insights for adjusting strategic plans with responsive changes in the marketplace.
  • The feedback in the Circles and Segments are exported along with unique data tagging to identify which feedback came from which circle/segment combination. This then allows us to filter and report on the qualitative feedback in a quantitative way.
  • The feedback is prioritized and acted upon by our management to identify who/how/when/if the feedback can be prioritized for bringing out the recommended change from those doing the work.

THE POWER OF PRIORITIZATION AND FEEDBACK, VISUALIZED

When teams communicate consistently, they will be able to coordinate more effectively. And improved, consistent coordination is the only way to truly collaborate. Because of this, visualizing the insights and issues worth sharing with the team leads to better ways of working for members of the team so that, as the saying goes, ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ and all team members end up benefitting from sharing what’s working and what’s not working.

The template includes a natural place for Agile Retrospective meeting sharing via colored Sticky Notes

The Retrospective Radar meeting includes the usual Retrospective meeting with the three talking points of “What went well?”, “What did not go well?”, and “What can be improved based on our learnings?” so that the team has a shared space to discuss and scale learnings for immediate improvements and new ideas. The Retrospective Radar itself is a helpful overlay of Pat Kua’s Retrospective Starfish for prioritizing learnings and new ideas for upcoming work and places it over Stephen Covey’s Circles of Control, Influence, and Concern.

The result is a visual way for team members to identify and prioritize their own work in the Circle of Control while elevating feedback and requested changes to their direct manager (Circle of Influence) and sharing systemic issues or system-wide new ideas directly with Senior Leadership (Circle of Concern).

A close-up view of the Radar, which overlays the Starfish over the Circles of Control, Influence, and Concern

I’m pleased to announce (and I will update once the link is live) that the Retrospective Radar is going to be made available as a worldwide template in the Mural library. The first image above is large enough to share for those not using Mural.

ADAPTING LEADERSHIP STRATEGY AT THE SPEED OF CHANGE

The Retrospective Radar provides a both/and for upcoming work and feedback for management. Any ‘Sticky Notes’ in the Circle of Control are actionable by team members and are added as part of the very next week’s iteration planning. Also, any Sticky Notes in the circles of Influence or Concern are added by team members to be actionable for managers/leadership.

Mural allows board administrators to change the color of the Sticky Notes in each section of the Radar so that all Sticky Notes can be exported (to GitHub or via a .csv file) and the results filtered so that all verbatim feedback can be associated with the Circle and section (Circle of Concern + Stop Doing, for example) so that it’s easy to parse the text data and represent the data to managers and leadership in bite-size fashion. In this way, feedback from team members can easily be made accessible after the Retrospective Radar meeting to the appropriate managers/leaders so that tactical feedback leads to strategic change.

The ability to export the from Mural allows for a color-code system to identify the Sticky Note’s Radar position.

Because we can export the ‘Sticky Notes’ from the Mural board on the Radar circles/segments by color code (see the Hex code key in the image above) and know which circle/segment the feedback came from (Circle of Concern | Stop Doing = #D00D003), we can report on that through a custom report to filter by the team, date, and circle+segment, we can act upon the feedback to show the reps how their feedback is being seen and actioned by various upstream leaders.

This is the most powerful part of the Retrospective Radar: insights from qualitative data in a codified, quantitative format. Aggregated insights and trends are then run through Watson Natural Language Processing to slice the feedback by keyword/phrase frequency, sentiment, and tone. This level of insight has never before been possible and is a game-changer for knowing where to focus our energies to solve issues and try new ideas from those closest to the market changes and our prospect/client needs.

True to an Agile MVP, we started small and simple with Excel on our way to building a more robust dashboard

In the spirit of sharing and Agile, I have made my Retrospective Radar layout freely available via the Creative Commons licensing and, as mentioned above, it will soon be a global template to use in Mural. The Retrospective Radar by Anthony Coppedge is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0

It is my hope that Agile teams everywhere will benefit from the combined retrospective and planning meetings with this helpful tool and technique for prioritizing shared learnings and actionable feedback for their leadership.

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Anthony Coppedge

Anthony Coppedge

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I lead the vision for how business agility is infused in Digital Sales at IBM. I relish the chance to sabotage mediocrity.