Tag der Lehre | Inverted Classroom and Beyond 2024

07.02.2024

đŸ› ïž Retrospective Role Game

#Retrospective #Agile #LearningGames
 


Claudia Reuter

Retrospectives are useful to reflect on team behaviours in order to identify and address issues that could jeopardize a project’s success. The Retrospective Role Game teaches students not only to prepare such events professionally, but also demonstrates how the use of well-proven methods makes it possible to cope with team conflicts.

What are retrospectives?

Retrospectives are an integral part of agile project environments. E. g., in Scrum they belong to the regular sprint events (Schwaber & Sutherland 2020) and in Kanban they serve the process of continuous improvement (Medinilla 2014). In its simplest form a retrospective consists of three questions that a project team must answer:

  • What worked well?
  • What didn’t work well?
  • What will we do about it?

When the retrospective finishes, the team should know exactly, what measures must be taken to improve their cooperation and to make the project’s success more likely.

In order to give the process more structure and to stimulate creativity, retrospectives usually are more sophisticated than the three questions indicate (Derby & Larson 2006). They can be divided into the five phases: „Set the stage“, „gather information“, „generate insight“, „decide what to do“ and „close the retrospective“. For each phase there is a plethora of engaging methods readily available (Baldauf 2023).

Retrospective Role Game – Because theory is not enough

However, it doesn’t make sense to leave students just with the theory about retrospectives. Because theory is not enough to understand the importance of retrospectives for the team development and students wouldn’t be prepared for dealing with team conflicts. So, we developed the „Retrospective Role Game“ (RRG) to give students a more practical grasp on the subject.

The goal of the RRG is that students learn how to plan, to moderate, and to behave in a retrospective. Furthermore, by providing a challenging situation, the students experience themselves, how retrospective phases and methods facilitate the process of cooperative problem solving.

The RRG consists of three parts:

  • Preparation: The students organise themselves in evenly sized groups. Each group gets a scenario describing a problematic situation of a project team. Then the students have to plan a retrospective for this team according to the five phases. Thereby, they can use the Retromat web page (http://www.retromat.org) to look for the most suitable methods.
  • Execution: Each student group appoints a moderator, who will perform the retrospective. The rest of the students form the project teams, for which the retrospective is carried out. The students get the scenario explaining their situation as well as specific role cards. Each role card defines a role, such as product owner or software developer, and it describes observations made during the last iteration. The observations on the role cards are different, so that they cause conflicts.
  • Reflection: After the retrospective, the teacher reflects on the game outcomes together with the students.

Evaluation and findings

The RRG was last evaluated in a master course employing the following methods:

  • Online self-assessment: All students are asked to complete the same online pre- and post-game questionnaire assessing their own level of expertise.
  • Saving the lessons learned: The participants reflect on what happened during the game and derive simple guiding principles for future retrospectives.

16 students participated in the pre-test, 14 students in the post-test. According to the self-assessments, the level of expertise that students assign to themselves has significantly increased after the game. Before the game 43,75% of the participants say that they know how to behave in a retrospective; after the game it is 100%. In the pre-test only 12,5% of the students are confident that they can plan professional retrospectives; according to the post-test 92,8% believe that they can achieve that. Finally, whereas 18,75% think they can moderate a retrospective before the game, the number increased to 71,4% at the end of the game. In the pre-test only 37,5% questions about the process of retrospectives were answered correctly, in contrast to 85,7% in the post-test.

In order to save lessons learned, we gather input according to the four categories „emotions“, „events“, „experiences“ and „everyday life“. First, the students should try to express the feelings they had during the execution phase of the game. After that, they reflect on the events that led to those feelings. Then they should consider their experiences and learnings throughout the game. Finally, each student summarises three guiding principles to be considered for retrospectives in the everyday professional life.

Conclusion and outlook

The RRG is a valuable instrument to teach students the process and importance of retrospectives in a varied and entertaining way. During the game, students are confronted with a challenging scenario. They have to apply retrospective methods in order to initiate a constructive discussion and to set the process of cooperative problem solving in motion. After the game, the students’ trust in their expertise with retrospectives has increased significantly.

In the workshop, the participants will get the opportunity to play the RRG themselves. During the discussion, we will look for possibilities to integrate the game into lectures and to apply it in other contexts than software development.

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