In May I went to Germany for the 11th annual retrospective facilitators gathering. It is a week long open space unconference focused on retrospectives.

It was an incredible experience for me, different from every other conference I have attended for a number of reasons:

  • Instead of being publicly advertised, it’s spread by word of mouth, which means everyone there is connected in some way or another, even if you have never met.
  • It’s in a fairly remote location. This year was Fladungen. This means everyone stays at the same hotel, eats together, drinks together, dances together etc. It’s 24/7 of conference some sessions are just more casual than others. This leaves you feeling part of a community.
  • It’s not an agile conference, so there were people from a range of industries and backgrounds, all interested in retrospectives. This brought together a lot of new ideas from different places.
  • It’s a whole week just on retrospectives. This strong focus meant that the conversations really got in depth, instead of just scratching the surface on a number of topics.

The beautiful town of Fladungen

I learned so much it is difficult to put it into a single blog post, so there will be more in future on some of the details, but here is an overview of my greatest takeaways:

Root Cause Analysis Techniques: I hosted a session on Root Cause Analysis techniques, hoping to share cause and effect diagrams, and get to grips with fishbone diagrams. I left with tons of root cause analysis techniques (Cause and Effect, Diagram of Effects, Fishbone, Wishbone, Timeline, Goesinto, CORFU), an understanding of the CDE (Containers, Differences and Exchanges) model, and some great tips on creating these diagrams.

Applying Storylines from Positioning Theory: Looking at how facilitators set the stage and create positions that are available to participants. This made me much more aware of how a few words at the start can change the whole nature of your retrospective.

Training Plan for a Retrospective Course: I ran a couple of sessions with a fellow CST Simon Roberts who is also a fan of Training from the Back of the Room, and we created a couple of 4C plans for teaching people how to run effective retrospectives. I hope to build these into a one day course from Growing Agile soon.

More Facilitation Games: If you know me, you know I love games to illustrate a teaching point, or to have people experience an emotion. I learned several new ones which if you spend time around me you will be sure to experience soon 🙂 I also had an opportunity to share some of the games Sam and I have invented.

The Post It on the forehead a sure way to prevent people taking themselves too seriously

Rain Dance: I experienced a powerful group warm up exercise borrowed from Native Americans called the rain dance shared by Linda Rising. It gave me goose bumps. You need a large group to do it though, so we’ll probably try it out at SUGSA soon.

Conversational German: Willem Larsen was there so I took an afternoon to wander Fladungen and do some language hunting for German. You will be amazed at how much fun it is to talk about Zuckerwürfel 🙂

In the end I left with new insights, new friends, and renewed enthusiasm for retrospectives and reflection. I can’t wait for next year!

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