The Speed Car retrospective is a simple tool that can help your team focus on two things: what’s driving them forward, and what’s holding them back.
This exercise works great for co-located teams but can easily be adapted for remote working. We have included adaptions after the method.
- Whiteboard or flip-chart paper and pens
- Sharpie pens
- Post-it notes
- On your whiteboard, draw a picture of a racing car with a large parachute at the rear. This needs to be a big drawing so try to fill the space as best you can.Whilst drawing the car ask your group to think back over the previous Sprint to the things that drove them forward and those that held them back.Visual facilitation tip: when drawing a car it is often easier to start with the wheels.
- On post-it notes, ask your group to write down the things that powered the engine of the car in the previous Sprint, and those that slowed them down. Encourage people to write one item per post-it.This should take no longer than five minutes.
- Ask the group to add their post-it notes onto the illustration and bring these together thematically (eg. a theme might be ‘communication’ or ‘stakeholder management’).Throughout this part of the retrospective, encourage people to seek clarity on any post-it notes they do not understand.
- Once post-its have been grouped, use dot voting to decide which topics will be discussed and in what order.Dot voting is a process where a group places a dot on a post-it note to represent a vote for an item they would like to discuss. Three to five dots per-person works well for this retrospective. People can put dots across multiple post-it notes, either on the car or in the parachute. Multiple dots can be placed on the same post-it if they’re really passionate about a particular issue.
- Following dot voting, you will have a list of the most important items for discussion.Remind the group that this is what matters most to them right now and this might change in the future.Through time-boxed discussion (3 – 4 minutes) encourage the group to talk through the key points in the order of most to least votes. Note that you are unlikely to cover off all the post-it note groupings and this is OK!
At the end of the time-box, people can decide if they want a further 3 -4 minutes discussing this issue, or if they want to move on.
Remote Working Adaptations
Facilitation of this retrospective can be easily achieved through an online digital canvas such as Mural or Miro. It may be tricky to live-draw your car so you might want to prepare this in advance of the event. As with any remote retrospective, be mindful that things take that little bit longer than they would face-to-face.
Asking questions during the retrospective may help the team unpack some of their more complex challenges. In particular, this retrospective may bring up issues or challenges you’ve heard the team raise before so you may want to ask:
“I’ve heard us speak about this previously. What can we do to make progress here?”
Great for recurring topics, or issues that haven’t yet been tackled by the team.
“What do we want to do to progress with this issue?”
Useful if the team are going round in circles on a theme without yet coming to a solution.
“You’ve mentioned this challenge before. How might we improve in this space?”
Again, great for topics that have come up in previous retrospectives that haven’t been tackled.
This retrospective can be a powerful tool to help teams think clearly about what is preventing them from progressing but also to reflect on what’s great about their existing ways of working.
Give it a go and let us know how it worked for you and your team!
The Speed Car is a well-known retrospective tool and was used in the first ever retrospective I was part of as a member of a Scrum Team.