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.
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.
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.