The Cool Wall Retrospective

Recently I was introduced to the brilliant idea of a  “Cool Wall Retrospective” by a colleague of mine. You can find all the details of how to run the session here.

Having read through the session guidelines, I thought this sounded like exactly what was needed in my next retrospective. It had all the ingredients of a good session which would get the team engaged, creating discussion, capturing feedback, the ability to focus on particular issues if required, and would help identify actions to improve going forward. My favourite aspect of all was that considering all of these factors, the session had to be good fun. Maybe it helps that I’m a fan of Top Gear as well, but instead of identifying if super cars are cool, we were looking at ourselves.

So following the guidelines listed on the blog, the scene was set with team. The question we asked ourselves was “How cool are we at ….?”. As suggested, I prepared a list of cards covering skills, processes, dependencies and soft skills. I tried to focus these around the team. This is much easier to identify knowing the team and environment as you can focus it more towards the known concerns. For good measure some of these were structured  and written in a way which were different, but part of a theme so we could triangulate some of the issues on the board and ensure we consistent with our cool assessment.

Straight from the off, the team were engaged in the session. As the team were voting, it was interesting to see discussion emerging between the team where some would think we were cool on things and others didn’t. On the flip side it clearly identified through consistent voting what the team felt were strengths and weaknesses. The triangulation/theme approach worked well as this challenged the team where consistency was not obvious and also created discussion about the perception of what was being assumed on other cards. An example of this was “Communication”, “Team Work” and “Working WIth Other Teams”, “Respect”, “One speaks all listen”. Although these points are close to each other in some ways, they can be assumed to be very different when broken up. When these appear in very different areas of the wall, questions are raised to re-evaulate or further define the differences.

After a good run through approximately 24 cards, it was visibly clear what the team perceived as problems and strengths. From this it was pretty easy to select particular topics to expand on and discuss solutions to consider going forward through to action points.

If you haven’t already tried this retrospective technique, I would highly recommend the ‘Cool Wall’. It ticks all the boxes of a great session and gets results. I can’t wait to try the format again, but next time asking a different question to the team.



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