Monday, 2 July 2012

My favourite coaching tools: Retrospective timeline cartoon

Caveats:
None. Getting a group to draw together, to make and convey meaning in story format by using the retrospective timeline cartoon pictures is an incredibly powerful team building activity. The retrospective timeline often raises team awareness, very gently, with humour, of something some of the team members are experiencing - eg providing feedback about a particular behaviour of one of the team members.

Required:
Large paper and markers.
20-30 minutes to draw
10 minutes to present and explain

Optional:
For distributed team members, the easiest is a way to scan/photograph cartoon contributions and email/upload to a shared space.

Step 1:
Simply give the materials and the instruction to the group. Part of this experience is to allow the group to figure it out for themselves - ie, less is more. A typical instruction is simply:

"Spend the next 20 minutes drawing a cartoon of a couple of frames that capture the key things that occurred during this past sprint/iteration/month/week/year/day"

As facilitator, you can suggest strategies for dealing with the 20/25/30 minute timebox (breadth first, depth second, breaking the timebox into smaller timeboxes, breaking the team into sub-teams after consensus is reached in the initial timebox, good-enough-is-good-enough, etc) 

Step 2:
Sometimes someone will attempt to dominate the effort - as facilitator try to ensure everyone is equally being heard and equally participating in the effort to decide what things to include, and how to depict them. Monitor the work effort and help the group meet the final outcome: a cartoon strip that tells a consistent story!

Step 3:
Something like the below will emerge when all goes well:


As agile coach I've seen and heard about many funny cartoons, and seen or heard of fantastic individual or team insights conveyed by using them!

One of my  favourites that I heard about had a character showing up in 2-3 of the frames and asking "What's going on?".

When the Scrum team was asked who this character was, it turned out it was the technical team leader who was also committed to 3 other projects and not really available to the team, and thus was actually detrimental to progress as the team had to keep bringing this "leader" up to speed and could not become truly empowered and self-organising.

Not really Scrum then! And this is a great awakening to help teams go through - many think they are agile or Scrum, but when they understand those 2 terms, and when they understand deeply the evidence in support of or opposition to, this can be quite shocking for some team members, whilst being the "I told you so!" moment for some other team members. You  have to be ready to coach for this situation and help each individual and hence the whole team successfully negotiate this awakening phase.

I suggest helping everyone with calm and focus in the current moment, and hope for the future to envision a future they all want to become the new current reality!

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