ResourcesSprint Retrospective Ideas

Peaks And Valleys

In this Peaks and Valleys retrospective, you’ll be able to identify common high and low points throughout the sprint and prompt further discussion to draw out potential actions. This retrospective activity will also highlight contradictions in how the team felt throughout the sprint – a great opportunity to grow empathy and understanding in the team.

Tools Required

  • 30 – 60 minutes depending on team size
  • Whiteboard or flip chart paper
  • Bluetac to attach flipchart to wall
  • Lots of different coloured pens, ideally 1 per person
  • Post-it notes

Method

  1. On your whiteboard or flipchart paper, draw a simple x-axis and y-axis.Put the duration of the sprint along the x-axis; you can marker points to indicate the days within the sprints, or simply indicate the start and end dates.Up the y-axis, draw a smiling face at the top, a neutral face halfway down and a sad face at the bottom.

  2. Explain that 1 by 1 they are to come up to the chart and indicate how they felt at the start of the sprint by marking along the y-axis. Then, without their pen leaving the chart, ask them to talk through their sprint whilst simultaneously drawing their peaks & valleys of the sprint across the chart.


  3. Repeat until everyone in the team has drawn their peaks & valleys timeline, ideally everyone will be able to use a different colour to highlight differences.

    Whilst individuals are drawing, encourage the rest of the team to ask questions or remind each other of key events so that it becomes a collaborative effort as well as an individual reflection. This will also keep others engaged.


  4. Once everyone has drawn, inspect the board as a group and identify the common themes; you may want to use post-it notes to highlight common peaks or valleys if the reasons are similar. This gives a bird’s eye view of the sprint sentiment.


  5. Address the valleys and work with the team to agree an action or two that will avoid or mitigate that low point occurring again in future sprints.

Challenging Questions

Asking questions may be helpful to get the team to unpack some of the more complex issues that have been raised, or they may be directed at members of the group who’ve had less of a chance to speak. Here are some easy examples:

“What are the common peaks we can see?”
This will encourage conversation at a group level to focus on shared positive experiences.

“What are the common valleys we can see?”
Similarly, this will start conversations about the shared low points of the sprint.

“What could we do about the lows that you have identified?”
This is where the action(s) of the retrospective will be explored and identified.

“Are there any contradictions? If so, how do we explain these?”
If you spot some lines at peaks whilst others are at valleys at the same time in the sprint, it would be worth exploring what caused some people to feel differently. Is it a skill set specific concern which needs to be addressed?

Takeaways

The Peaks and Valleys retrospective is a powerful tool to visually represent the sentiment at both a team and an individual level across the sprint. The peaks and valleys will not only highlight common lows and highs shared among the team, but also any key events which impacted team members differently.

As this is a team-led retrospective, in that the team are actively sharing individually whilst others listen, this is ideal for Scrum Masters who want to enhance their ‘back of the room’ facilitation skills.

After completing this retrospective, the team should have more insight into each other’s sprint journeys and communication across all skill sets can be enhanced.

Enjoyed this retrospective? It is also available in our signature comic strip style for easy reading and sharing. View and download the pdf here.

Laura Hillman

Laura brings 5 years' experience across 3 industries as a Scrum Master. She's worked with teams who operate as independent scrum teams as well as in a scaled framework methodology, meaning she can adapt to different environments and frameworks as necessary to support teams at all levels.

She feels passionate about empowering teams to be the masters of their own success and enjoys coaching teams from the forming through to performing stages. Laura is always in awe of the skills of the individuals in her teams and revels in seeing what they produce sprint to sprint.

SUPERPOWERS | Chasing dependencies. Organisation. Being approachable.
KRYPTONITE | Scope creep. Blockers. Diet Coke.

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