Boring retrospectives – part 7 : Role swapping

People picture themselves doing your job, and I bet you do the same.

If I were a tester on this project, I would do things differently.

In many cases, you even have ideas to do the job better.  Whether or not these ideas are valuable or achievable, ideas are always interesting.  They give an opening for improvement and learning.  Don’t let role hierarchy ruin this.   A junior programmer might have an incredibly bright idea to help you improve your role.

During an agile retrospective, we want to stimulate the entire team to think outside their context and come up with ideas that can improve the process.

A great exercise that enables this, is role swapping.

  • You write down each role of the team on a card.  So a team of 9 will have 9 cards.
  • In random order, each team member chooses a card.  Try to choose a different role than your own. (You might have to level out the team roles to make this easier, because typically half of your roles will be ‘Developer’)
  • For a couple of minutes, we reflect in private on how you would do the role differently.
  • When time’s up, we share our ideas one at a time and discuss.
  • Concrete actions get recorded and planned to be implemented.

This exercise can only be effective when there is enough trust between team members.  People need to be open to suggestions and willing to discuss options, so they can learn from each other.  If your team is not in that stage yet, you’re better off doing exercises that build trust.  The effect of the role swapping exercise would be limited anyway.

Give it a try, you will be amazed by the ideas that pop up.  Plus, it’s a fun exercise to do as a team.

About Nick Oostvogels

Hi, I'm an independent management consultant. My biggest strengths are located in the fields of teamwork, motivation, leadership and continuous improvement. In the IT industry you find a lot of these values in the agile movement, in which I often act as a project leader, product owner or coach. My interests go a lot further, into other industries where we find these values in lean production. Besides that, I try to broaden my horizon as much as possible, always looking for better ways of doing business.

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