M&M's: Agile Retrospective For Gloutons

Florian Ferbach
Florian FerbachApril 23, 2018
#agile

Retrospectives are at the heart of the agile process. Without continuous improvement, agile is nothing. But while it seems like a simple exercise, it's actually really hard to liberate self-criticism, and to detect possible improvements. For that very reason, I try to change the way I do retrospectives for every sprint.

It's quite challenging to find new ways to facilitate retrospectives every time. It can take the form of a simple talk, a starfish, a speedboat or its many variants or even a keep drop start... Besides, depending on the context and the momentum, all the possible ways do not always work.

In one of my current projects, the customers always bring some biscuits on demo days. I happened to stumbled upon the candy love retrospective this week, and it involves food as well. So I thought: We need to try it!

Hot To Do An M&M's Retrospective

Well first you need a bag of M&M's. Take those with the nuts inside - otherwise it's just smarties on disguise. People would be disappointed, and I would be disappointed!

You hand the bag to one participant, and ask them to pick one M&M without looking. Depending on the colour they picked, they have to talk about a particular subject.

Willing to base the chat on experiences, these were the rules I set :

green m&m's An awesome feature we delivered
red m&m's A moment you particularly liked
blue m&m's Something we should probably do next
orange m&m's A moment of stress
 

Notice I omitted two colours, well I used them to bring some more fun into the retrospective. With theses rules :

brown m&m's Pick another one
 
yellow m&m's What's your favorite book, movie or food?

It might also be a good idea to allow a wild card. In my case, if someone had nothing to say, they could choose to throw some story cubes, and tell a story.

Giving kudos to someone who have helped you could be a good idea too... It would probably turn out great!

When a participant speaks about their experience, a chat usually starts by itself. If it doesn't, you can use the 5 whys to take the discussion further.

Once the discussion is over, make someone else pick a M&M's!

Choose your rules depending on how you want the retrospective to turn out:

  • Do you want to point the downsides?
  • What worked well?
  • Is the point to bring the team closer?

You can even animate a future-spective with this workshop.

Be careful though, it seems red and yellow M&M's appear more rarely!

Conclusion

When I tried it, everyone was eager to say something, and nobody had the need to use their wild card.

The M&M's retrospective started very interesting discussions, and we never had as many insights with any other workshop. It was a very pleasant activity, and despite my rule not to use twice the same retrospective, I already want to use it again.

Note: It doesn't work very well if you do your retrospective right after lunch...