(picture credits: By Yasir72.multan - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Last time I blogged about team retrospectives I presented my first experience with the Zombie Retro Format.
Today is about the "Amazon Review", an activity for setting the stage contributed by Christian Heißing to the Retromat. Btw: The retromat website project created by Corinna Baldauf is a very helpful source for retrospective facilitators who wish to have variation in their formats & activities.
Storyline of the whole retro
Before I share my experience with this review activity, I would like to tell you the storyline of the whole retrospective. It was a kind of special retro as it was the last one in this team constellation (6-8 people). We are about to merge with another team resulting in roughly 15-16 people. Before the first retro in the new setting, we took our time to look back into the past as a starting point to Remembering & imagining the future - as it could be in a couple of months - afterwards.
Setting the stage by reviewing & rating the last weeks of work - Initial reactions
When I introduced the Amazon Review activity, the first reactions of the team members were like: "How should we do that?", "Should we really review the whole last four weeks on one paper?" or "And each on his/her own?". While hearing and seeing those reactions I wondered if I chose the "right" activity for setting the stage. I asked myself: am I already too familiar with this activity so I wasn't able to properly check the suitability of the activity for the team?
We tried the review activity anyway (for sure ;-)). And after a couple of minutes of thinking in silence everybody started to write. Most of the time we were filling the content section first. The title then followed somewhere between thinking and finishing the content section. The star review was the last action the team members filled out.
TL;DR: we went from (already packed) details in the content section over the (even more condensed) title to the judging part - the star rating.
I experienced that finding a title and giving a rating is a tough but useful task. Especially the resulting titles were surprising and each one nailed different aspects of the past weeks down in one sentence. At a glance, this activity really worked well to set the ground for the following activity about remembering & imagining the future.
As everyone's voice is being heard once when presenting his/her review, it is also a recommendable activity if you have a heterogenous team with talkative and silent people.
Moreover this is also a suitable activity for teams who wish to take more time to reflect between retrospectives but do not actually take this time (yet). We took enough time for this activity (~15 minutes) so everybody could think in silence and at least take time to reflect within the retrospective.
Learnings & advices for next time
For me as a facilitator I learned that I will introduce this activity the next time rather as a Movie Review than as an Amazon Review as our outcomes felt more like that. This could also be influenced by the fact that we do a more Kanban-like approach in our team (and no Scrum sprints) so we do not have a "shippable product" after which we do our retrospective (and which could have been reviewed&rated). Next time, I will also announce the timebox for the activity in advance (and have a timer visible) and I think about easing the task by telling the team that they might want to write the content first and title & rating will then follow "automatically".
As always: I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences.