Background

This is an idea I presented at the Retrospective Facilitator’s Gathering in May 2019. Newspaper articles tell stories based on facts. So this retrospective idea is to use this metaphor to capture data, analyze it, and decide on some actions. In some ways, it is similar to the team co-creating an A3 report. Each person is a reporter bringing the news back and then becoming the collective team creating the newspaper. Expect this to take between 30-120 minutes depending on the length of the iteration and what happened during it.

Gathering Data

After opening the retro, let people in individually write 1-5 sentences about various aspects of what went well or didn’t go well. All the sentences should be based on fact, though allowing ‘squishy’ words like ‘many’, ‘often’, etc should be OK – if these become important the analysis portion can help qualify these. If these have data that can back them up, they can be include, such as “we had 3 broken builds this iteration”. These articles should get categorized by the writer into the following news sections:

  • Politics are all articles about team collaboration
  • Technology is all about tool usage
  • Business is all about the process
  • Science is about new discoveries or learning the team has made
  • Foreign Affairs is all about things external to the team
  • The Nation is the section devoted to things about management
  • Real Estate is the section devoted to physical space (meeting rooms, team space, etc.)

Analysis/Gaining Insights

After the initial creation of stories, the team would come together and combine like stories. This is where multiple perspectives now are coming together. The team would take these similar stories and provide analysis on these stories, collectively writing what they think is happening. For those ‘squishy’ words, they can be replaced with more quantitative or more descriptive qualitative words. Diagrams could be added. If people had categorized the same thoughts into different sections, part of the analysis can be agreeing on where it best fits.

Finally, they prioritize the 1-3 that will appear to be on the front page, analyze those as well; if not analyzed because of similarity. The other parts of the paper can be laid out into their appropriate sections (it’s OK not to have certain sections represented). Using the metaphor and laying out the newspaper is where the fun part is injected into this retro technique.

Decide What to Do

For those on the front page, create the planned elements or experiments that will be done to correct these (or amplify them if they are positive), adding these sentences onto the story. In many cases, options for solving the problem may be discussed. These can be captured into the story as well for later reference.

Final front page stories then wind-up being 1-5 factual statements of the problem, 1-3 sentences of analysis, and 1-3 actions (with options) that can be taken. A few other stories later in the newspaper wind up being factual statements and analysis, and most are just factual statements. These would be categorized into the appropriate sections and later retros could review the newspaper in future retros.

The fun part of the retro is doing the layout along the way, so don’t miss out by just having people write stuff. It is also worthwhile that the team give the newspaper a name and date it, just like a real newspaper.

If you decide to try this, I’d LOVE to hear how it went!

4 thoughts on “Newspaper Retro”

  1. Hi
    I made a newspaper retro this week with my team.
    What went well:
    – we used one EasyFlip per Newspaper chapter to stick the collected articles on. You can easily stick papers on those EasyFlips and rearrange them
    – The size of the front page naturally limits space for the most important stories, so focussing was easy with this technique
    – It was fun to do the retro
    – The result, i.e. the front page with the most important findings, analyses and assigned persons looked nice and a picture of it served as the Todo summary for the next sprint.

    What could I have done better:
    – I made the participants distribute their articles to the different sections themselves. Then we went as a whole group from section to section to clean up (i.e. remove duplicates, add some information to clarify the statement). This slowed the process down, and not everybody was involved. In fact, me as the retro host was the only one writing. Better: distribute the team to the different sections, make them clean up each section in parallel, max three per section. Then have a look at the cleaned up section as a group and discuss, if similar articles are in several sections.

    I will definitely repeat this retro, I liked it and it added some change to our retros.

    1. Thanks for that feedback, I am planning this for my team’s next retro and your comments really helped me to polish up the plan!

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