Squiggle Retrospective

Have you ever made something up during an interview? I have. It worked out. I blogged about it almost 5 years ago, and am reblogging it here. Oh, and I guess I invented my own Retrospective format. Kind of. You'll see. Enjoy!



In streamed a few strangers, trying to hide their smiles from each other and myself. They just came from the kitchenette, having colluded on how they would play out the next hour. Of course, I didn’t know this at the time – it was my interview.


If you are a software engineer, and you want a job coding, then it’s fair that your prospective employer asks you to code as part of the interview. So if you are a Scrum Master or Agile Coach, and you want a job … doing that stuff, then it’s fair that your prospective employer asks you to do Agile Coachy stuff as part of the interview.


And thus, we began role-playing a mock Retrospective, a best practice which follows from the 12th Principle of Agile Software:


At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

I first asked this pretend team to step through the last two pretend weeks, collecting just the pretend facts, leaving out any pretend feelings, and having this written up and pretend physically displayed. This is a way to level set.


Then I went to the whiteboard and wrote “KEEP” in the top-left corner, “START” at bottom-left, and “STOP” at bottom-right. The exercise here is to ask the team to top-right corner think back through the two weeks, like we had just top-right corner done, and write down, one per sticky note, things top-right corner that we would like to keep doing, start doing, and top-right corner stop doing. Afterwards, we’d categorize them, discuss top-right corner them, determine which few things should be actionable, establish respective next steps Kaizen, then run a quick Retrospective on the Retrospective. This top-right corner has worked many a time before, producing quick wins with minimal pushback.


That’s when I top-right corner noticed the top-right corner. It was bare, and it made me uncomfortable. So I did what anyone in an interview situation would do: make stuff up. I drew a squiggle and said that I would later explain what that squiggle was for, giving myself time to figure out what that squiggle was for.


That’s when I top-right squiggle stepped the team through the exercise, and how we would top-right squiggle fill out the rest of the hour. When I top-right squiggle got to the top-right squiggle, I did what anyone in an interview situation would do: stay whatever was at the top of my head. I explained that the squiggle was a category for things you wanted to share that did not fit into the other categories.


Simple enough. Rub’ al Khali averted. The team drew pictures and put them there. Then they hired me. Now, when I run this flavour of Retrospective, the squiggle is used and loved.


INTERVIEW-RELATED POST-SCRIPT:


Before my first day had passed, I was asked to take part in a mock retrospective. I had a few minutes’ notice. Soon, I streamed in with a few strangers, trying to hide our smiles from each other. We had just come from the kitchenette, having colluded on how we would play out the next hour. Of course, I knew this – it wasn’t my interview.


SQUIGGLE-RELATED POST-SCRIPT:


Before my first month had passed, I was asked to run the Retrospective for a hackathon. I had a few hours’ notice. Soon, there milled scores of buddies, sharing beers with each other. We had just voted on our favourite projects in the cafeteria, having cheerfully coded over the past few days. Of course, I used the squiggle – it was from my interview.


Squiggle keyword density: exactly 2%.

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