Group Feedback

Cross-posted from the 7digital Dev Blog
Whiteboard with Group Feedback cards arranged showing Pairing and Communication as the biggest groups

The API Team decided to trial a Group Feedback in our last Retrospective influenced by this post from Mark Needham – we were hoping to promote a safe atmosphere for everyone to talk about each other in a frank manner.  Initially the idea was received with trepidation and a fear of public humiliation, but we were willing to try a new approach.

Hibri, our Team Lead, suggested that we should present our feedback as three points in a similar vein to the “Start, Stop, Continue, More of, Less of Wheel” but sticking to just Stop, Start and Continue.  This would focus the feedback and prevent any potential for the retrospective from spiralling off course.  The team took a vote on whether to try this approach before starting.

The ‘Subject’ sat on a chair, called the Hot Seat, facing the team whilst everyone else had 5 minutes to jot down on three cards an item for that person to Stop, Start or Continue.  The cards were then tacked onto the whiteboard behind the Subject.  Everyone took their turn in this manner as the Subject and afterwards we got a chance to read the points suggested and comment if we wish. The original plan was for the team to read out the cards to the Subject, but we decided against that and reviewed the feedback as a group.

We found that there were overall themes for each person and it was felt that nothing on the board was a complete surprise to anyone.  This may have been due to it being the first time we’ve tried this as it was noted that it was harder to write the cards than be the Subject being assessed.  As expected everyone had areas they could focus on more and areas where they were strong.  Each person was encouraged to create their own personal actions from the feedback, which was not divulged to the team.

We also found, whilst reviewing the cards, that we had a couple of common themes across the team, and we decided to rearrange the cards and group them up. This showed that the team felt we were focussing really well on Refactoring, but that we needed to address Pairing and Communication (as well as being late for standup…).  We discussed the cards further, noting the overall themes and devised a couple of actions;  Pomodoro techniques whilst pairing and Bi-Monthly team “Show-and-Tell” sessions for anything that needs communicating, such as major refactorings undertaken and any lessons learned.

The exercise turned out to be very useful and was a different way to find areas within the team as a whole which needed attention.  Also, we were focussing on ourselves and not our output, our processes or our environment as per most retrospective exercises and everyone received positive along with any negative feedback.

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