GROW Your Retrospectives


I have been assigned as the PO to a non-development scrum team for product marketing. After one week of work, we have delivered only 2 banner ads from a team of 10 people. The problem seems to be the process of approvals, reviews, kickoffs, briefs, tickets etc that need to happen in order to deliver the work. How would you coach me to help everyone see that our current process could be improved?


Chris Sims with a plant.My first recommendation is to address this in the team’s retrospective. As product owner, it’s appropriate for you to say you would like to see the team get more ads, or other product backlog items, done in a sprint. Be a bit careful though; it’s very easy for the team to hear that as you blaming them or thinking that they’re not working hard. From the tone of your question, I don’t think that’s where you are coming from, but still be aware they may interpret things that way.

In the retrospective, you might consider using the GROW model that I’ve been writing about recently. GROW is designed for coaching, but it’s also great for structuring a retrospective. It stands for: Goal, Reality, Options (and Obstacles), and Way Forward. It’s an arc that you, or the scrum master, might guide the team through.

Start by identifying a goal that the whole team can get behind. Perhaps it’s something like: We will get two more ads delivered in the next sprint, compared to last sprint.

This is where the team establishes a deeper shared understanding of what is currently happening and why. Perhaps guide the team through a process mapping exercise, to identify all the steps and tasks that were required to get the stories delivered.

Once everybody has a good understanding of the current reality, then you can move on to identifying options to speed this up. Brainstorm ways to shortcut some of the bureaucracy. In this phase, you really want to be open to any ideas. Don’t do any critical thinking; just collect the ideas.

Identify the current obstacles as well as obstacles that might get in the way of some of the ideas just generated. This gets a little iterative, back and forth between options and obstacles.

Way Forward (Will)
Ultimately, you want the team to identify their way forward. What is it they will try in the upcoming sprint? Think of it as an improvement experiment.

I like that tools like GROW often have multiple applications. It’s a coaching tool! It’s a retrospective tool! It’s a floor wax! It’s a dessert topping!



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