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What if…..

12 Jan 2018 |

What if…..

By Dillon Weyer – Agile Consultant, IQ Business

The optimum outcome of a retrospective or any improvement workshop is to identify opportunities for improvement. The standard approach that most teams will follow, is to identify a number of problems, then prioritise and pick one or two to solve. From my experience, the majority of the time is spent identifying the problems and an incorrectly proportioned amount of time is dedicated to finding the root cause and then coming up with a solution.

Problems are generally seen as negative, and as such, the state we are in while dealing with problems is also negative. While stuck in a negative state, we are less likely to come up with creative, positive solutions. To paraphrase Tony Robbins “Your brain is a computer. Submit a question, get a response. Submit negative questions and get negative responses.”

What if… rather than focusing on the problem we focus on a positive future state instead?

I was coaching an overly negative team who seemed so stuck in the problems of their world, that they just couldn’t see anything positive. The retrospectives ended up being more of a moaning session and often resulted in no improvements or positive outcomes.

I decided to try something new with the team. After the check-in, I asked each member of the team to write a down a statement starting with “What if …..”. This statement needed to define what a positive future state may look like. For the first time working with this team, I heard positive statements.

This process still identified the problems, although they weren’t defined as problems, but rather as positive future improvements.

Some examples:

  • What if we commit to work we can actually accomplish in time
  • What if all the contractors had access to the environments
  • What if we stop shifting blame when things go wrong
  • What if everyone took ownership of delivery
  • What if we helped each other more often

Once everyone had read out their future statements, the team prioritised and discussed what we would need to do, as a team, to achieve this future state of the highest priority item.

The general mood in this retro, compared to others, was a lot more positive with less personal attacks and arguing. Everyone was focussed on a positive outcome and as a result, discussions were more solution focused.