Rediscovering the Obvious

…stumbling in the footsteps of greatness

What did I learn?

without comments

Karl Scotland and I have helped coordinate the organization of the bag stuffing each year for the last three years. It’s a great time because of the awesome group of volunteers showing up and the mindset of “I’m here to learn something while I help out” that’s so pervasive.

The flow of bags was very effective at the end of the day last year and this year we simply started where we left off last year with the same design. Thanks to some great pre-work, we knew where everything was and what needed to go in each bag, so the briefing of the volunteer staff took less than 15 minutes and we were ready to go.

The team got moving and each zone quickly solved any issues that arose, continually improving and adapting how they worked to the needs of their specific area. We got done a couple hours early, and everything pretty much “just worked” better than could be expected.

So, when I’m asked to lead a retrospective, what do I do? Everything went so well, and learning was incorporated so rapidly, that a simple plus/delta seems utterly pointless. The plusses have been amplified, and the deltas have been changed, why should we write them down? So here’s what we did…

We gathered in a standing circle, grabbed a spare piece of swag to use as a talking stick, and each answered one simple question: “What did you learn?”. After sharing, the group reflected the individual’s statement back in a simple phrase appropriate to a sticky note. [1]. As each of us answered, we sat down to bring focus to the people still wanting to speak. Best of all, the “people in charge” [2] did and said very little, and learned quite a bit.

Why did it work? Well, as I mentioned above, many of the volunteers were there to learn. The bag stuffing has filled up in the first volunteer sign-up round (of four) each of the last two years. The process execution was well beyond “good enough”, so it seems like the right thing to do is help people take away more than just their own perspectives. With a majority of volunteers having English as a second (or more!) language, the reflection portion ensured that the individual’s perpective was conveyed clearly and helped to ensure that people were able to absorb the statements effectively. More interestingly to me, the “what did I learn” style questioning seems to have drawn out positive emotions in a way that other retrospective formats haven’t been able to do in my experience.

Here’s to next year!

[1] Karl captured them here.
[2] Specifically, Karl and I as facilitators were able to keep our mouths pretty well shut.

Written by erwilleke

August 22nd, 2011 at 10:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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