Using “Happiness door” to set the stage in a Retrospective

When planning a retrospective meeting, it is important to keep in mind the stages the meeting will flow through and try to stick to it. When the participants get there it is essential to have them welcomed and show appreciation for them taking the time to be in this meeting. Share the agenda with them, and if they all agree to it, you can start following the plan you have prepared. At our company, retrospective meetings flow through these stages :

  1. Setting the stage
  2. Gather data
  3. Generate insights
  4. Decide what to do
  5. Closing the retrospective

Setting the stage

Setting the stage is exactly what it sounds like. It is a step to have the participants enter the retrospective mood without quickly diving into it. For this part it is needed to have a short introduction activity to have everyone getting started. In this case, the activity used will be “Happiness door“.

Why: Create a positive vibe and give everyone an opportunity to speak. I read somewhere once that, if an attendant speaks once at the beginning of the meeting, he/she is more likely to talk more later.

How: Draw a line in the door, horizontally from the door handle. Explain to everyone that everything above the line is Good, Better, Best. And everything under it is Not good, Worse, The Worst. Ask the attendants to write their name on a post-it and place it on the part of the door they feel like. After they are all placed in the door, start from the lowest and make space for the participant to share why they feel the way they do.

Pick up where we left off

Before diving into gathering data, we usually take some time to pick-up where we left off in the last retrospective meeting. We all together discuss each item we had as an action from the past retrospective. We see if actions have been completed, if they worked and if we want to keep repeating it. We see actions that were not reached, discuss reasons and if we want to have it as an action for this retrospective or if we decide to drop it.

Gather data & Generate insights

These stages can either be implemented separately or together. For this retrospective we had the “Open the box” activity to do so.

Why: It is simple. Gives the team the chance to add things to it during the sprint. Helps to not let things get forgotten.

How: Share with the team that a box has been placed in the office. Whenever they think of something they need to discuss with the team, they can write it in a post it and place it in the box. The box will not be opened until the next retrospective meeting. This gives a chance to the team to remember what happened in the last two weeks. Write down each item on the board and discuss every one of them separately. Keep notes and add possible actions that come up during the discussion. Share with the team that these are only suggestions for now and will be voted later on.

Decide what to do

This is one of the most important parts of the retrospective. It is when we take a look what has been discussed, action ideas and decide what we will commit to in the next two weeks. It is good if we take small achievable actions. In this case we used the “What? Who? When?” activity.

Why: It is once again simple. Define what needs to be done. When assigning someone to finish a certain action, it assures the team that it will get done. Having a date or time set, again reassures the team in knowing it will get done, but also helps them plan around it.

How: Draw three columns on the board, titled What? Who? When? Place actions on the What column. Decide with the team who will be best to implement each of those, and the time when each action needs to be done.

Closing the retrospective

This is just as important part as any of the ones mentioned above. This is the part where you get the feedback from your team and see just how effective this meeting was. Since we opened with it, it seemed as a good idea to close with the same activity too. “Happiness door”.

Why: Helps to see those lower post its get higher on the door as a result. Gives a good vibe to the team and also you as a facilitator.

How: Ask the attendants to move their post its, the ones they’ve added in the beginning. That’s of course if their mood has changed. Make sure you once again thank them for the time they took to be in the meeting. Take some time to take pictures of the finished boards and maybe some with the team.