Retrospective: The Bear

Written by agile, development

At a previous employer, when I took over the Scrum Master role from someone else, I did the first retro as sort of a light-hearted joke. Just to ease into it. Because the previous Scrum Master had been a fan of making all sorts of elaborate drawings for retrospectives (little did I know it would be one of my favorite things about being a SM), I decided to just randomly draw a bear and kind of wing a retrospective concept based on the drawing.

It actually turned out pretty useful, and I did it a few times after that. Which is why I share it now.

The concept

There’s a bear! It’s chasing the team! The team doesn’t want the bear to catch up, ’cause, uhm, it will eat them. So:

  • There’s a drawing of a bear,
  • There’s an initial distance (let’s say 50 meters),
  • The team individually writes post-its for negatives and positives about the previous iteration,
  • Positives represent rocks, bricks, catapults, and other things that scare off the bear,
  • Negatives represent donuts, hot dogs, candy, and other forms of nourishment for the bear (more energy for running, you see),

After grouping and discussing the items (always extract action points!), add 5 meters to the total distance for every positive, and subtract 5 meters for every negative. That’s the new total distance, which you can keep and use again over time. This is what we did, but you could optionally utilize dot voting prior to discussion to add/subtract more distance per item depending on their relevance. If I ever do this retro again, that would be the way I’d do it, because it would make it easier to decide what to discuss and make our over-all score more accurate.

What we accidentally ended up with was a pretty good general indication team happiness, comparable to a happiness radar. The first time we did this I joked I’d quit my job if we ever got to zero. Just after I resigned, we did the retro and got to zero. Not long after, many more people suddenly started leaving the product department. So… apparently it was a pretty accurate indication of something ¯_(ツ)_/¯