Martin Jul writes about a retrospective activity in the post "Retrospectives - Adapting to Reality." He describes an interesting process for highlighting issues in the Generating Insights part of a retrospective session.
In this activity we mark out three sections on a whiteboard: "DO" is where we put the things we should do or keep doing. This is all the things that makes us more efficient. We don't list all the good practises, just the ones we are currently learning and need to do consciously until they become habits. An example could be "Talk to the customer about the requirements before we start implementing them." "DON'T" is the section with all things that we do that lead us to step on the usual landmines. These are the fires we are currently fighting and the things we want to stop doing. Tom Peters calls this a "To Don't List". Example: "Don't over-architect the application to support speculative future requirements". The third section, "TRY", is the section for new things we want to try out and evaluate. Example, "Try adding automated acceptance tests with FIT". Everybody contributes. As the team names items we cluster them so similar items are grouped in one. Then, the next step is selecting the most important ones as focus for the next iteration. We normally recommend a simple process called "dot voting" where each team member puts a dot in each area to mark what they rate as the most important item. This is usually enough to make it clear what the most important issues are. We post these on a big visible "Do / Don't / Try" chart in the team working area. They give focus to the things we should do consciously for the next iteration. Then, as part of the next iteration retrospective, we look back and evaluate the results. We keep the things that help us for as long as they keep helping us.
The simplicity of the activity appeals to me, and that it focuses on three ways of continuously improving the team's effectiveness.
I'd make one change. Instead of asking team members to vote on the most important issues, I'd ask which would provide the most benefit or most positive impact. For many teams, "most important" means many different things to different people. Most important along what dimension? I like to take a step closer to clarity with asking about impact.
In the next step, Deciding What to Do, the team could identify an actions to match each of the three items, gain commitment for the next steps, and take those next steps into the planning meeting as tasks. I like it!
Plus, as the retrospective leader, it gives an opportunity to use your Yoda voice!