Deep tissue massage retrospective

Jan 22, 2015  ·  Sandy Mamoli

Even with high performing teams sometimes there are common themes coming up again and again in each retrospective. Much like a tight spot in a muscle that keeps lingering around (until we get a good massage) those issues keep coming back until we pay them enough attention to make them disappear. Use the "Deep tissue massage retrospective" to massage out your team's sore knots!

David Mole and I devised this retrospective and as former athletes it has become one of our all-time favourites.

1. Applying The Oil

Put an image on the screen for massage (Don't google muscle knots, trust me!)

Set the scene by explaining the massage theme:

If you have ever had a massage, then it usually starts all nicey nice - soft music and long strokes. Then they find a lump, or a knot in your muscle and they roll their sleeves up and really go to work. Now it is focused attention, really kneading, pressing and pushing to smooth out the knot. I'd ike us to find some knots and have a go and smoothing them out!

Let's do a targeted retro - in the sense of tackling some specific issue(s) and really getting into them.

First we need to find the knots:

2. Finding the Knot

Preparation: Have a look at and think about your old retros. You can either do this during the retrospective or ask people to come prepared.

a) Individually write down anything that feels like a knot. A one off niggle is not a knot, a knot is something that has formed over a prolonged period of time. Write these down individually now for 2-3 mins, talk to people if you like but keep your notes to yourself.

*If you have anything else that you would like to talk about in the retro, not a knot but something that is front of mind, then just write that down too and put it on separate sheet.

b) Take 2-3 minutes as a group to choose the two most painful knots. Group them into themes first if you need to (let people choose how to select, if they can't decide use dot voting).

3. Get to Work - Kneading

You've found the knots, now get into it!

a) (Set timer for 3 minutes) Split into 2 groups of 2 or 3 people and start by writing down why this is a problem. What does it mean for the team and why has it come up before/again. What the ideal team would do in respect to your first knot and how this is different from the squad at the moment.

Note: you could tackle the same issue, or different ones as you see fit.

Write anything that would take you to being the ideal team, the 100%ers, the ultimate team. The best squad not just in your organisation, not in your country but where Google, Facebook and Netflix would walk in and say you guys are an incredible unit.

b) (Set timer for 5 minutes) talk about exactly what that means you should do, if there is a big or improbable solution then what is the first step? What could you do more of, less of, change to make you the ultimate team?

Could be a tiny step, a change in behaviour, a tool, a person... What could you do more of? What is holding you back?

c) (Set timer for 3 minutes) Now you have 3 more minutes - what other options can you come up with?

d) Report back to the other teams.

e) What will you do, how will you make sure you actually do it and hold yourselves to account? How are you going to make sure you won’t talk about the same issue at your next retro?

Note if there is nothing, literally nothing you can do, can you record this somewhere so that you don't spend any time worrying about it and talking about it in your retros.

Option to continue for further 5 minutes if more discussion is needed or if the ideas are flowing

f) Now tackle the next most important issue/theme from the centre of the table. Rinse and Repeat. Option to partner up and walk/talk for 5 minutes if low on energy.

4. Get dressed, the massage is over

Now relax and review what actions/notes you have come up with.

Where are you going to put them so that you remember them? And how will you check that they have made improvements in the next retro?

A healthy body needs a massage every two weeks... It may or may not be the same knot by then. Sometimes the knot reforms, sometimes it appears somewhere else.

5. Follow up

Send around the output and notes. Ask everyone for an image which describes how they feel about the retrospective. (Again, tell them not to google muscle knots ;-)

Categories: Agile Coaching, Retrospectives.

Tags: Agile coaching, improvement, retrospectives.