Few years ago I got invited to attend RFG16 (Retrospective Facilitators Gathering ‘16) in Portugal. It is hard to describe such an event, but the simple description would be that it is a week long unconference [wiki]. A limited group of 30 wonderful people comes together to share their bright minds about continuous improvement as well as facilitation.
Second week of March I’ve spend a week at RFG18. I love to take opportunities like these to sharpen my skills on designing and facilitating scaled retrospectives. The attendants are often open-minded towards experimentation and it helps the next organizers to make the event even better. Added benefit is that I volunteered to be one of the organizers for the next edition of RFG in Europe in 2020!
Every year the event switches between Europe and America, and I was lucky enough that in 2018 it took place in my home country at Noordwijk, Netherlands. Being in a different place and context for a week, still made it feel like I was on vacation abroad.
There is way too much to share about what I got out of the week, so the focus of this blogpost will be on the scaled monster retro I designed together with @Toby Baier and @Silvana Wasitova. To get people in a creative mindset when trying to come up with improvements, I prefer to design retro’s which have a strong theme with some storytelling. The version I’ll share with you below is a combination of how we hoped it would go, what we actually ran and what came out of the evaluation (retroception) to do differently next time.
Header image by AnimeVeteran on DeviantArt. On the right the good Dr. Jekyll and on the left the bad Mr. Hyde.
Once again I’m hoping to join the serious games unconference Play4Agile next year, so here is my Playpplication. 🙂
I love checking out new (un)conferences every year, but this one around serious games is becoming a regular one for me. Serious gaming is the act of using games or game metaphors to explain certain concepts, amplify group dynamics, let people experiment in a safe environment or as a learning tool.
I like Play4Agile specifically because the attendees create a safe and open environment where everyone feels free to experiment, fail and learn a lot together. There hasn’t been a year I wasn’t inspired to try multiple games afterwards or I didn’t get to experiment with multiple concepts I had in my mind. Hoping to get through the lottery and see this tribe again next February!
Will keep you updated.
Hopefully I lured you in because you’re looking for ways to make sure you don’t set yourself or your team up for failure. Look no further! Actually the first rule of online is you should look & learn further and not blindly trust an agile creative dude on the internet. Still I hope this visualization and background give you a nudge in the right direction. Could also have called it “How to Make a Good Story Great!”
> Free high-res download of visualization at bottom of post
All of you have probably seen one of those whiteboard-style animated videos. You see a hand with a marker visualizing the concepts which you hear in the voice-over. They are often made to easily and visually explain concepts or as a nice way to help understand the highlights from inspiring talks (TED-like) or books; like this one on Drive by Daniel Pink [vid].
Few months ago I went to SPIEL ’16 [web] in Essen; the biggest board game fair in the world. Ever since I’ve been obsessed with a new game I discovered there, Happy Salmon [BGG].
It’s one of the fastest games I’ve ever seen. One can explain it in one minute and play it in the next. Considering it only takes two minutes, it brings a huge amount of joy and instant gratification, making it my default energizer in workshops, trainings and other sessions now.
At the beginning of this year I went to one of the most fun and educational unconferences I’ve ever been to; Play4Agile [web].
Typically at an unconference, the agenda is created by the attendees at the beginning of the meeting. Anyone who wants to initiate a discussion on a topic can claim a time and a space. Unconferences typically feature open discussions rather than having a single speaker at the front of the room giving a talk, although any format is permitted. This form of conference is particularly useful when the attendees generally have a high level of expertise or knowledge in the field the conference convenes to discuss.
The main topic was about games in agile. How to use games for explaining certain agile concepts, apply gamification in learning, use existing games as a metaphor for real life situations, etc.
Last year it was sold out in under 15 minutes, so this year the organising committee reinstated that one will need to apply in order to join.
‘Exploded view’ of what I learned this workshop. OCD, you ask?
Just now I attended an introduction workshop to LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® [web] in the context of agile. The purpose of this method is to use hands-on, minds-on creative thinking to let people build metaphors with LEGO bricks. That way it enables possibilities in their ideas and communication.
“You can learn more about a person in an hour of play than you can from a lifetime of conversation.” – Plato
Trust me when I say there are numerous workshops using LEGO out there. This is the only method which LEGO has endorsed. My excitement was high as the great @Martin van Dijken was one of the facilitators. 🙂 I find it valuable and so far think it matches my coaching style. The next step is deciding if I want to become a certified facilitator.
The first bar night at Agile Coach Camp 2015 I told Franklyn Geerling about how I used Black Stories. He then encouraged me to host an open space (thanks!), which I gave the same name as this blog post. Today that session turns out to be one of the fire starters which sparked life into this blog.
Black Stories is a (children’s) riddle game which needs creative and lateral thinking to solve. At first I played the game during summer camp with kids and observed the effects. Based on that, I started using it with great success on my project at KLM/Air France. They had helped my team to better think out of the box and even look forward to meetings.
Somehow (things often seem so silly in retrospect…) it didn’t occur to me this practice could also prove valuable to others. Judging by the feedback and ‘thank yous’ I got at Agile Coach Camp [web] and later, it turned out many coaches are in need of practical advice. They seem to find it a welcome and energizing change from some of the heavier-on-the-mind holistic sessions.
The purpose of the Application squad I’m currently in is ‘Ontwikkelingshulp’ in Dutch. We enable other squads to better deliver software. One of the themes on our backlog is breaking up the monolith [wiki]. So recently I ordered little monoliths on Etsy [web] as team mascots. Today surprised my team with them after stand-up. 🎁
The moment has come.
I’ve noticed that my slightly cough geeky hobby and my daily job have been flirting with each other. And by flirting I mean dating. Like the kind of dating where they prefer to get to know each other first. Then before they knew it, they ended up… well, maybe I should stop the metaphor here before things get out of hand.
So what are my hobby and daily job I hear you think. Let’s start out with my job: