Gather Data: Pyramid Building

I use this retrospective activity when the team I am facilitating needs help focusing on the items in their control.  This activity is for the Gather Data phase.

Have the group break into groups of 3-5 members.  EVERYONE gets a pen and sticky-notes, thus, everyone can write.  Within their group, they will discuss the last iteration (or whatever your retrospective is covering) and write down events, issues, and general happenings that have occurred, one per sticky-note, falling into one of these two categories: “Holding us Back” and “Pulling Us Forward”. The events can be personal or work related that affect teammates individually or as a team.

Its up to the each teammate to decide how much they want to share. Let them know at the start how much time they will have to get their comments jotted down. I generally give them about 10 minutes but, it will depend on the subject and number of team members. As with any activity, keep an eye on people getting board or off topic. Its a sure sign time should be up. Let everyone know when they only have about a minute left and if they are ready, they can begin placing their notes on the board.

While the groups are breaking up and having discussions, I draw the following on the white board.  Artwork is clearly not part of being a good facilitator 🙂


After everyone has settled back down, let them know you are adding a new category, Gravity.

Gravity are the things out of the team’s control. If we have any kind of control, even if it is relativity small, it doesn’t fall into gravity.

Reading each aloud, review the sticky-notes with the team.  Ensure everyone knows what the comments mean by asking questions like:
“Does everyone know what this means?”
“Does anyone agree/disagree?”
“Why do you think this is true?”

Ask your own questions if you feel the team is just ‘going through the motions’.  Ask for clarity on blanket statements like “We communicated great!” What does that mean? Communicated with who? How?

Following the close of each sticky-note, ask the team: Is this in our control or out of our control? If its out of their control, for example, the weather sucked this week, then move it to the gravity category.

When all the notes have been covered, ask if we have missed anything else? Then, using the Four-step method, debrief the activity and transition the the next part of the retrospective.

The Four-Step Method?  I learned about it from the Agile Retrospective book from Esther Derby and Diana Larsen.  They reference it from the following:

The Art of Focused Conversation: 100 Ways to Access Group Wisdom in the Workplace:
1. Start by asking for observable events and sensory input. “What did you see and hear?”
2. Ask how people responded to those events and inputs. “What surprised you? Where were you challenged?”
3. Ask for insights and analysis with questions, like “What insight do you have about this?” followed by “What does this tell you about our project?”
4. After you’ve established the link between the activity and the project, complete the learning cycle by asking group members how they will apply their insights: “What’s one thing you might do differently?”

Here’s a couple of examples of the board after the team has completed the activity. I’ve had the team break the sticky-notes into themes for the ‘Looking for Patterns’ stage of the retrospective.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Terry T




Posted on October 12, 2013, in Activities and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Magnificent website. Lots of useful information here. Im sending it to some friends ans also sharing in delicious. And obviously, thanks for your sweat!

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