Futurespective: Hopes and Concerns

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Format: Hopes and Concerns

The Hopes and Concerns format is a futurespective instead of a traditional retrospective. Looking not just at the last iteration, this formats helps to reveal other desires and possible concerns within the team.

Why use this format? It can be valuable to use a futurespective format if you notice that the team is pretty “stable”, and looking only at the previous iteration isn’t bringing much structural improvement anymore. It can also be useful to try a futurespective format when starting with a new feature, release, or bigger project in order to uncover hopes and concerns already at the start.

The Icebreaker

To get everybody in the mood for this retrospective, the icebreaker is a fun (and silly) exercice that sets the stage for the retrospective. For this one, we asked each team member to share the one thing that they like about our team the most. For some teams or people, this will be a challenging or uncomfortable question. Make sure your team is open to this kind of questions before trying it out. Usually I quickly read through them and ask a bit more context if something is not self explanatory. Otherwise, we move on rather quickly.

The goal of this icebreaker is to get everybody engaged and present in the retrospective, making sure they are no longer distracted by other work that is going on.

The retrospective format

After the icebreaker, we can go into the actual exercise. This format contains 2 stages:

  • “Hopes”: what do you “hope” for our team or project in the upcoming period? If you are doing this futurespective at the start of a new feature, release or project, you can ask the question in regards to what the team hopes to achieve in this project. If you are doing this exercise with a mature team, you can ask them to share their hopes about the future for the team. In which areas do they still want to grow (technical, working together, service to the customer, …). Make sure people don’t limit themselves and share every idea that comes to mind.
  • “Concerns”: what are your concerns for the upcoming period? Again, if you are doing the exercise at the start of a new project, you want to have the team share concerns or possible risks that they see for this project. This can be risks about the project itself, or about certain practises that the team is currently doing that might become a risk while doing the new project. If you are doing the exercise with a mature team, try to dig a bit deeper and have the team share concerns about the way of working, collaboration with other teams, the customer etc… 

For this exercise to work, it is crucial that the team openly shares what they are thinking about. If not, the exercise might be superficial and the value will be lost. That’s already a good concern to start with… 

As always, ask your team members to write down the topics that they want to discuss in this retrospective. It’s good if everybody can at least write down one topic per stage, but this will not always be possible for  everybody. You can ask for it, and see if this is possible. I usually put on a timebox of a few minutes and continu when everybody is ready. If your team members tend to write down a lot of topics, you might want to limit the amount to 3-4 per person. 

After the timebox, quickly read through the post-its to make sure the content is clear for everybody. If you have a lot of topics (too much to discuss in this session), do a quick dot voting session and start with the topics that has the most vots. If you are using Miro, you can use the built in Timer and Dot Voting tools.

While having the discussion on a topic, always focus on what’s within the control of the team. Don’t focus too much on external people or factors, but mainly on the things that are within the control of the team to identify improvement actions that the team is able to take. You want to have 1 – 2 action items at the end of the retrospective that you can implement in the next iteration(s). Remember: you will not always have big live changing action items in each retrospective. That’s also not the intention. A small action that brings a small improvements is already very good. Try to improve a little each sprint instead of trying to bring big changes at once.

About last retrospective...

A crucial part of the retrospective is to reflect on the outcome of the previous one! Teams often forget to do this, but it very important as it gives the team the confirmation that the action items are actually important… And that we want to make sure we improve! There is a section on the top of the template where you can refer to the action items of the last retrospective. Go over them, see how you are doing in regards to them, and decide what to do next.

Rate your retro!

At the very end of the retrospective, I ask the team to quickly rate their retrospective with focus on: 

  1. Did we have a good discussion? Did we speak openly, and respect each others opinion?
  2. Do we have valuable action items? And, are we confident that we will do them in the next sprint?

Other things about the format

On the very top of the format, you can see 2 elements:

  • Action items / experiments: this is the place where you would write down the action items during the retrospective. This makes it easy to summarize them at the end of the session.
  • Idea for the next retrospective: I always like to foresee an area where people can give feedback or give input for the next retrospective. This can be feedback on the current format, ideas for a new format, tips, general feedback… Anything that can help us make the next retrospective even better! I would not make it required for people to give input in this, make them feel free to give input when they come up with something.

Download the template (for free)

You can download the Miro template for free below:

If you don’t have a premium version of Miro, you can also download the picture at the top of the screen and create the board in Google Drawings.

This format was inspired by Funretrospectives.


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