More often than not teams are encouraged to look back and identify events that happened during past sprints in order to improve their performances going forward. Although this is critical for development and continuous improvement, taking the opposite approach and looking forward to anticipate the future can be more valuable in certain situations. The Weather System Futurespective is ideal for new teams and existing teams that might be heading towards change or uncertainty.You will present the team with three images, representing three different weather forecasts. One represents happiness and certainty, another represents some sense of uncertainty but with no major risk, and the last represents uncertainty but with a potential cause for concern.In order to get the most value out of this exercise, all three parts should be completed by team members individually in order to get personal views as well as team views.
- 30-60 minutes (depending on team size)
- Futurespective templates (optional: download link from bottom of article)
- Wall space or a large whiteboard
- Post-it notes
- Pens for each team member
- On a wall or whiteboard with adequate space, stick three posters on the wall in order: sunshine, overcast and stormy weather. This will be the order you address each phase of the exercise.
- Explain to the participants that each weather pattern represents their existing emotions and feelings about the not so distant future, and that they are encouraged to be as open and as transparent as possible.Sunshine = certainty, happiness, optimism.Overcast = uncertainty, but no cause for concern.Storm = uncertainty, sadness, negative outlook.Explain that you will take them through each phase one by one (left to right) with time-boxed discussions, ensuring everyone has a time to speak.
- Starting with the sunshine, ask the team to begin adding post-its beneath the weather diagram with statements that relate to that futurespective category. One statement per post-it is best. Depending on team size, time-box this to 5 minutes of populating, and a further 5 minutes to discuss. In the discussion, you may want to group any duplicates or related post-its so you have clear and distinct themes.
- Then move onto the overcast phase. The process remains the same, however, here you will encourage the team to think about potential concerns or perhaps existing concerns which are close to being resolved.This gives everyone the opportunity to identify items, which may become impediments in the near future or have some cause for concern. However, it also encourages discussion about the progression teams have made to resolve existing problems.
- Now move onto the stormy phase. This section may demand the most attention, as it helps identify real causes for concern or potentially catastrophic events that could completely damage the progression of a teams growth or velocity.As it is harder to think about and identify these issues, try a 10 minute time-box for thinking and populating, then a further 15 minute time-box for discussion.
- Now that you and the team have identified and discussed the key themes, ask the team to run a simple dot vote to identify the biggest potential issues. 3 dots per person should do it.Once this has been done, ask someone in the team to order them in priority (highest amount of votes at the top).
- Finally, ask the team to discuss the top three concerns collectively and see if there are any potential immediate actions which can be taken to mitigate against uncertainty..Actions might not appear for some, but just note that it is important to explore the possibility that there may be undiscovered solutions. Once this has been done, the exercise can be drawn to a conclusion.
“What is the cause for concern here?”Helps identify the root cause of concerns, which could contribute to supporting actions.“Is there anything else here that we haven’t covered?”Helps make sure everyone has contributed. Also good for moving a repetitive conversation along.“If you weren’t to consider an action for this concern, what would be the consequence?”Enables the team to consider both actionable and non-actionable decisions, which in turn should help reduce ignoring the potential problem.“Has anyone got a different view on this?"Gives those who maybe don’t agree with the current conversation an opportunity to speak up.“Is there anyone who hasn’t spoken on this theme yet that would like to contribute?”Offers an opportunity for the quieter members of the team to speak.
The Weather System Futurespective should bring a sense of clarity and enthusiasm that any potential risks the group might be facing can be identified and mitigated.The team should also have a deeper sense of connection with one another (especially if there are new members) as the retrospective encourages transparency by encouraging them to talk about their personal views on how they perceive the future.Whether it's highlighting something exciting coming up, or uncovering the concerning issues that might lie around the corner - this exercise helps the team take forward-thinkingperspectives so they can work closer together and forecast their own success.We hope this Agile retrospective idea helps your teams to become the self-organised, self-empowered and self-trusting teams that we're all aiming for. Let us know how you get on!