Retrospective Facilitator Gathering

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While traveling from Mount Pilot to Charlotte, NC Esther and I discussed some of the difficulties with distributed retrospectives. We discussed how different intake modes and learning styles get lost when one or more team members aren't co-located during a retrospective.

Intake Modes

We receive information from our physical senses: seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, and smelling. Of these, tasting and smelling don't usually come into play during a retrospective. This leaves:

  • Seeing / visual input - the things we see during the retrospective. The data items teammates produce. The way teammates act and interact.
  • Hearing / auditory input - what gets said. When it gets said. How it gets said.
  • Feeling / kinesthetic input - moving around the team room. Writing on stickies. Dot voting. Playing with things.

People tend to have a preferred intake mode, visual, auditory or kinesthetic, but access the other intake modes. This helps refine the data input. If a teammate's actions and tone contridict the words, we're likely to ask for clarification.

Learning Styles

You can find a description and resources for Kolb's learning styles here. The basic 4 types are:

  • Concrete Experience “The Doer” - People in this category tend to be pragmatic, practical and functional; they are searchers who see a purpose in learning; they are good problem solvers and work well with others.
  • Reflective Observation “The Watcher” - These people like to get the picture, like to know the purpose of practice. They need to watch others, are good listeners, introspective and contemplative.
  • Abstract Conceptualization “The Thinker” - Such people are analytical, logical, thorough and theoretical. They would rather read than listen to lectures, are often loners or dreamers. At times they are meticulous to a level of obsession.
  • Active Experimentation “The Feeler” - People of this nature are receptive learners; they learn predominately through “gut” intuition. They try many things to find a way. They tend to be emotional. They learn by doing and evaluating the way.

(Descriptions from a really old copy of Skiing Right)

Again, we're not all one and none of the other. The weight/strength of each axis gets plotted on a radar chart. On the instrument Don took, he “scored” CE 18, RO 8, AC 16, AE 17. Like Jungian Type, there is no “best” learning style. The take away becomes awareness about learning styles as we design a distributed retrospective.

The Activity

We divided into pairs and worked through:
“Review the activities you use in light of:

  • intake modes
  • learning styles
    1. If the team is co-located.
    2. If half the team is located elsewhere, how would you adapt the activity?

The Discussion

  • Participants presented the following insights, possibilities, and questions:
  • Have 2 intake channels in the activity.
  • May lose the thinkers/feelers unknowingly.
  • Give advance notice (agenda) on activities.
  • Imagine a participant with special needs, and how would you change an activity to include them?
  • Have multiple input ability (Doers).
  • Make space for edits (Watchers).
  • Is there a way to increase Aural? Story telling? Extend the daily stand up (as a metaphor)? Interview protocol?
  • Use an email chain to collect data.
  • Build the timeline in each location.
  • How can I know “safety” in a distributed retrospective?
  • For timelines, use sound (such as frequency of tapping the table) to position the post-it on the time line.
  • Assign a buddy for distributed members.
  • Pair activities involving the distributed members.
  • Use the highest bandwidth technology available.
  • Texting.
  • Gather data before hand.


We built this list. Some we've used, some we haven't. For the those we haven't, they were mentioned in retrospective workshops when we discussed this topic. The free/fee is my best guess based on what Don could find on the internet.

Tools for mitigating some distributed retrospective adverse affects:

Google Docs - free: allows multiple editors and shares in near real time. - fee: Looks like a hybrid twitter/skype/wiki - fee: Real-Time Chat, Code Sharing for Remote Teams. - free: virtual project/task board

webex/gotomeeting - fee: desktop sharing software

skype - free: video (2 people), voice and IM (multiple) - free: 6 way video conferencing

dabbleboard - online whiteboard, free/fee (don … what is the one george and you looked @ when doing GCN?) - online stickies. Looks free as of 6/2009

mimeo - ?? - free: surveys - free: voice and text chat. Could we create our own community/estate and limit access? “Agile”Bill Krebs offers several venues for Agile work in 3d environments including retrospectives with immersive tools. Tweet DM him at AgileBill4d, Second Life AgileBill Firehawk, or

Problems with Distributed Retrospectives:

1. Reduced bandwidth limits sharing information to largely static methods.
2. Reduced ability to collaborate and interact.
3. Keeping team members engaged.
4. Kinesthetic activity (small vs large muscle movement).
5. Rapport
6. Supports mainly visual learners, somewhat auditory, very little kinesthetic.
7. Temporal impedance (time of day issues across time zones)

(From Jutta Eckstein's Agile 2008 session)
1. Cultural Differences
2. Time Zone
3. Language barriers
4. Tool (performance)
5. Unequal power relationship
6. Different activities needed
7. Lack of visibility (ie non-verbal communication)
8. Lack of involvement

  • keeping up energy level
  • focus on something else

9. Low honesty (lack of trust)
10. Process knowledge is different
11. Hard to facilitate
12. Sharing / integrating experiences / results
13. Takes longer
14. Stays more on the surface
15. Harder to be constructive
16. Interaction
17. Harder to interpret results

learning_modes_in_distributed_teams.txt · Last modified: 2018/10/27 07:58 (external edit)