The final principle of the Agile Manifesto states, “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.” The TL team put this into practice last week in a de-briefing session for a large-scale project. Everyone who had his or her hands in the project attended the meeting. Here’s how we did it.

  1. We set-up four white boards, one for each main part in the execution of the project: Project Management, Instructional Design, Course Building, and “Other”. Each board was given a color code, and split into “Works Well” and “Needs Work” halves.
  2. Next, each team member got 4 sets of 4 sticky notes that were color-coordinated to match the boards. For each area of the project, they were to write down 2 things that worked well, and 2 things that needed improvement. We gave them 5 minutes to complete this task and attach their sticky notes to the appropriate board.
  3. Random Assignment #1: Random small sub-teams at each board organized and grouped the sticky notes into topics on each side of the board. For example, the group that worked on the Course Building board made Video, Audio, and Visual Design subcategories on the “Works Well” side.
  4. Each sub-team described the groupings to the rest of us as we walked from board to board. Now we all had an idea of what went well and what didn’t go so well in all 4 areas.
  5. Random Assignment #2: After all boards were organized, everyone went to a new board with different partners. Sub-teams considered the “Went Well” side and discussed why a certain thing went so well and most importantly how the team can ensure that it happens in the future. After a few minutes discussing boards and writing comments, each group shared their ideas.
  6. Random Assignment #3: Team members changed groups again, moved to another board, and reflected on the “Needs Work” side. They discussed what caused the problem areas and what possible changes could better or eliminate those areas. They then shared those ideas with the group.

When it was over, team members gave feedback on the exercise. Everyone returned to work but kept the de-briefing session in mind. After reflection, team members had one day to go back and put a sticky note with a “W” (meaning “Work”) over any areas on the white boards that needed more solutions.

When we were all done, we reflected on the debrief process itself. The team felt that one of the best aspects of the exercise was the opportunity to explore ideas that not only fix problem areas but also make sure that things that went well are mindfully incorporated into the work going forward.