Boring retrospectives – part 9 : Vision Poker

In one of my previous blog posts, I introduced the concept of vision based retrospectives.  By using a vision of the ideal state of your team/company/family/… it is easier to weigh improvement suggestions.  Which one get us closer to the vision?  What’s the next step?

One team I’m coaching is in a stage where the project is almost finished.  Typically, retrospectives feel different in this stage.  There is not much room left to benefit from local improvements because development is finishing, the release train is gaining speed and people are starting to move to other projects.

At this point in time, I believed it was time to critically review our current way of working by comparing it to our ideal state.  So I invented Vision Poker!

  • First of all, I printed the mind map of our ideal state on an A3 piece of paper and placed it in the middle of our meeting room table.
  • Then I gave each participant 4 poker chips.
  • After that, we briefly reviewed our ideal state, to make sure everybody understood it the same way.
  • Then I gave the team the assignment to “Bet your poker chips on the categories of our ideal state of which you think we’re doing great.  You can put all your chips on one category, or distribute them amongst several.”

This led to the following result:

Vision Poker

Then we looked at the categories that contained the least amount of chips and started to discuss them, one at a time.  I facilitated the discussion and recorded what was said.  When discussions stopped, I helped the team to write down actions to improve the stuff that was recorded on a flip chart.

In a 1 hour retrospective, we were able to discuss 4 categories and distill a list of 3 concrete action points.  Maybe that doesn’t seem much, but remember that this team had been working together for 2 years and made a lot of improvements over this period.

Using the poker chips and the betting metaphor made the entire retrospective more fun.  I like to believe that if you ask people to bet on where the team is doing great, they will be more honest because money is at stake (even if it is only fictional).  Either way, it was a fun and efficient way to make a selection in possible topics to discuss during the meeting.  I plan to use my poker chips more often in exercises.  Maybe next time, I’ll use some dices or a wheel of fortune. 🙂

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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