Mirror, mirror on the wall – A personal retrospective exercise

During the last year I did quite some Scrum coaching for different teams in different organizations. What I found is that a lot of Scrum teams follow the ceremonies and the rules of Scrum. That is a good thing. What I also found out is that many Scrum teams do not get the most out of their retrospectives. The talk about the process, mention what goes right and mentions what goes wrong, but they do not really follow up the points mentioned. Rookie Scrum teams get some value out of their retrospectives. Most of the times because it is easy to find some points of improvement. The build does not work, more unit testing is needed, we should sit together. But the more mature a Scrum team becomes the harder it gets to find improvements.

A scrum team (just like any other team) goes through 4 different stages of maturity. Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing (Tuckman 1965). To move from Storming to Norming or to Performing, it is not enough to focus on the “hard” side of the process. What I mean by that is focus on usage of tools or improvements around the work. In my opinion a team needs to pay attentions to the “soft” side of the process. Trust, transparency, direct communication and mutual respect.

All the teams that I coach(ed) were technical teams. Technical people are not the most “gifted” when it comes to soft skills. People have the tendency to keep things for themselves, not tell other ones what they really think and leaving important things unsaid. This can be an obstacle for a team to move to the norming or performing stage.

In order to help teams to open up a little bit, I created a retrospective exercise that might help. I called it Mirror, mirror on the wall (or in dutch “Spiegeltje, spiegeltje). In this exercise I let team members tell each other what they think about each other. The team members can choose how open they want to be, but it provides them with a safe opportunity to open up.

You can use this exercise freely. Please let me know what you think!

  1. Create a group of max. 10 people, ideally your Scrum team
  2. Create pieces of paper with every name of the team members. Create 2 tickets per name. With 10 team members you will have 20 tickets.
  3. Fold all tickets so that the names cannot be read. Put all tickets in a box.
  4. Let everybody draw 2 tickets. Everybody needs to have 2 different names and not themselves.
  5. Take 10 minutes and let everybody write down 2 good points and 2 improvements points for yourself and both names. This results in 6 good points and 6 improvement points. Write down the focus point, the name of the writer and the name of the subject in a fixed format
  6. On a whiteboard or flipover create a grid with Good and Improve and hang down all the cards

  7. Gather around the whiteboard. Choose a person (use the lottery tickets if needed) as the subject. All writers read the card out loud to the subject and explain what they mean. The subject may react but not defend him or herself. Start with the improvement points and end with the good points.
  8. When everybody is done the exercise is over.
  9. You can vary with number of focus points, number of tickets etc.

Let me know what you think !

3 Responses to “Mirror, mirror on the wall – A personal retrospective exercise”

  1. Reblogged this on Jasper Gilhuis and commented:
    Great post!


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