I haven't added to this blog in a while. Too busy working with clients and, let's face it, posting tweets. I've felt a little guilty about not keeping up on my promise to post interesting new retrospective activities in this blog too. The accumulated guilty feelings have nudged me to add useful content. Today I found something worth adding and that tipped me over the edge (along with some free time and an early morning in my office).
In a recent Sticky Minds column, Naomi Karten writes about PMI (Plus/Minus/Interesting), a technique for helping groups think together about many aspects of an issue. To get the full effect, read her article and/or check out the book she recommends--Edward deBono's, DeBono's Thinking Course.
Karten describes the technique using an example from her work with an IT group. They needed to resolve an ongoing disagreement about priorities and Naomi was there to facilitate their discussion. As it was a large group, she divided them into sub-groups of 4-5 people and challenged each group to identify all the things they could think of that they considered a "plus" about the issue, then everything they considered a "minus," and lastly, things they perceived as "Interesting" about it. To add to the challenge, she gave them a one-minute timebox for developing each list. Then the groups shared their lists.
In this instance, using PMI helped the group break out of their habitual patterns of thinking and find new perspectives on the issue.
In a retrospective design, PMI would fit well as a "Generating Insights" activity, helping a team learn more about a topic, analyze it together, then gain new insights into the possibilities and opportunities for improvement.
Plan for about 20-25 minutes for this activity, depending on the size of your team and the number of subgroups. Allow one minute to form subgroups of 2-4 team members; another minute for developing each of the three lists; ten minutes (depending on the number of subgroups) to create the common list on a flipchart or whiteboard; and a few extra minutes for the team to reflect on the outcome.
Rather than writing lists on paper, I suggest asking the groups to write their ideas on sticky-notes (one per note), then report them in round-robin format--each group hands one of their sticky-noted ideas to the retrospective leader in turn and eliminates the redundant notes when another group reports the same or similar thought.
After a discussion of the common PMI list, choose an activity to help the team identify a list of alternatives for improvement actions for the issue and move into the "Deciding What to Do" step in the retrospective framework.