Creative ways to run a retrospective differently 

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First up – for those for whom Agile Methodology is a somewhat new way of working – a retrospective is one of the ceremonies in Agile.  (watch our team discussing ceremonies here – 3 min watch).

Retrospectives in Agile methodology are done regularly and kept short.  For example they can happen at the end of a two week sprint.   The project is still underway and it allows you to regularly address issues or challenges to keep everything on track.

In a retrospective you discuss what went well, and what needs improvement and create actionable items for the next sprint.

(This is as opposed to old-school – end of project post-mortems or lessons learned when it’s too late to pivot quickly to course correct. )

It’s important when running retrospectives that teams feel safe.   Ewelina Winska from our Polish office explains “Find a place where your team will feel secured and where they will feel creative. When you work with your team on a daily basis you best know the problems they are facing. “


Sometimes when doing retrospectives so often – you need to freshen them up and get creative.  This allows team members to re-engage with the project. It can also help looking at issues through a different lens.   It can help eliminate unconscious bias.

Sometimes you have a sprint which is emotionally exhausting. You feel you have given you best ideas, been most considerate of others and reflected continuously. The last thing you feel like is another workshop to cover what we feel we already have!  So, it’s important keep the retrospectives fresh and creative.


As a team iterates over the building of a product or service, over several sprints, they should also iterate over their process of working together as a team.

Retrospectives with a high degree of safety allow for quick improvements from sprint to sprint. Over time though, the same retrospective questions can result in the same stale answers, plateauing progress.

As a team matures, introducing them to varied and more complex formats encourage the team to think from different angles and continuously improve.



It may seem obvious, but getting away from the usual meeting room, can open up the brain to new ideas.   You are outside, being stimulated by different elements.  Benny Ko, from our Melbourne offices says it “can give the team a more relaxed environment for honest conversations”.

  • Walk and Talk – have the team walk through a park for the entire meeting with someone taking notes.
  • Coffee shop – set up your mobile retrospective over lunch or coffee
  • Visit a partner/shared working space alternative office the team may never have visited.

As one of our team in Poland, Ewelina Winska says “I admit that the best Retrospective I ever held was the one at a riverbank.”


It helps to identify interests that particular group members may have.  For example in this case below – a team member was passionate about gardening.  It opened up a creative way to set up the retro.  Ensure there are props used (get a shear, seeds, and watering – it will assist in better recall and identification) – Thanks to Caitilin in our Sydney office for this example.

Garden’s Retro – Using props will help this retro stick.


  • Prune – What will we cut back on now for future growth
  • Sow – What shall we plant for future sprints
  • Nourish – What do we need to do more of immediately (what do we water for immediate effect for the next sprint)


Steve Walton is our project lead from Melbourne.  Steve developed a”self-care retro” for a Friday afternoon on a client where were we almost too drained to talk and the idea of another post-it would have made us cry!   Here is his ‘self-care retro.

Self-care Retro steps
  1. Everyone lays on the ground with something under their head (is great if people happen to have a coat to lay on, and pull over to put under their head). Those uncomfortable with laying on the ground should sit in a comfortable seat.
  2. Ask people to close their eyes, perhaps dim the lights and put on some relaxation/meditation music in the background.
  3. Guide people to think about how they feel now, at the end of this most recent sprint. Ask them to share with one word. It doesn’t matter if people use a few words, the idea is to get the team to understand the range of their emotions at that moment.
  4. Give a few more moments of silence and then ask, how do people want to feel at the end of the next sprint.
  5. Ask people to identify one thing they can do individually to feel how they want by the end of next sprint.
  6. Thank people for being open and courageous and reaffirm that it has been a big sprint, it is normal to have mixed feelings and encourage people to check in with each over the next few days.

4.     WOW & BOO

Ashwini Patil from our Singapore office has been experimenting with ‘draw and express’.  She says it has been a really fun stress buster for the team and quite successful for her as a coach. So much so she has started to adopt it for all he collocated teams and workshops.

It’s based on the same traditional principle of retrospective just that a few words have changed and instead of writing, she has adopted drawing as a way of expression.

  1. You do this by using the 3×5 or 4×6 long sticky notes
  2. The teams are provided with markers and stickies and 2mins silent thinking time on what was “Wow” (What went well) and what was “Boo” (What didn’t go well) for the Sprint.
  3. The team then spends 3mins of time using the stickies to draw these Wow and Boo items on their list using no words whatsoever.
  4. The facilitator then comprehends and reads them out loud or let the team member describe their drawings.
  5. Finally, the team agrees upon what “Boo” items we want to move to “Wow” list and takes ownership of them. The only challenge of this technique is it’s hard to implement with distributed teams but a tool like MIRO can be explored to try this one out.



Finally – here are few extra tools you can consider using to assist you changing the style of your Retrospective.   We aren’t affiliated with any of the below companies – we just like to share ?

As we said earlier, fatigue can set in with teams over several sprints.  So introducing teams to varied and more complex formats encourage the team to think from different angles and continuously improve.   Here are a couple of ways to help that.

This company here provides a tool to keep the team’s health, in check!
Malar Singaram from our Singapore office provides likes and uses these two ways to improve retrospectives when this happens..

The 3 Ls: Liked, Learned, Lacked, and

Anchors and Engine (What is slowing us down? What are the things that push us forward?) source:

Ewelina Winska will sometimes use Tasty Cupcakes (the resource, not the food – although that would be good too!).  It’s a good resource for games and techniques you try.

One useful tool to use if there is great discussion which needs focus – is to use a word cloud tool.   One that we have used is Mentimeter which allows teams to submit responses anonymously through their mobiles, (great for remote teams).

Shilen Modi from our Sydney team says “A question that I quite like (although I haven’t actually done this before) is ‘describe how your team is going in one word’ Menti creates a word cloud showing all of the responses.


Like Mentimeter, there are other online tools which can be especially useful for geographically distributed teams.  Something like Fun Retro (  We use it by designing the columns, get the team to submit their retro feedback, vote on ideas and then move the priority cards to the top of the column.

Tools like this saves paper waste and saves time in converting post its to a document.


The editor would like to thank the following ADAPTOVATORS for their contributions to this article:

Benny Ko
Shilen Modi
Ashwini Patil
Malar Singaram
Caitilin Studdert
Steve Walton
Rachna Verma
Ewelina Winska





Download the free poster
You can download the free poster at our resource library. Print out for your office kitchen or meeting room – Download here

How do we see business sustaining ‘new ways of working’ over the longer term?

Success. Sustained.

Two simple words that appear on every email signature of every employee at ADAPTOVATE.  It’s our tag line, which is at the absolute core to everything we do and say.

Simply put, how does your business sustain ‘new ways of working’ over the longer term.

In his keynote at Digital Edge last year, Doug Ross, our Partner and MD at ADAPTOVATE discussed this very topic.  (Feel free to duck over and watch the 5 minute video here. )

Doug said “Interesting enough, no-one knows how to do it for you. Not from the outside.  It really amazes me when people turn up and they say, “Hey I’ve got the latest methodology, or I’ve got the latest framework and we’re just going to plug it in and it’s going to work well”.

But realistically it’s different in every company, every country” he says.

So that’s what we will discuss in this article.  How do you sustain ‘new ways of working’ over the longer term?

To start, there are eight consistent themes.  If you aren’t prepared to do these, out of the gate, “sustained success” is going to difficult.

However, if you get all these 8 themes on track, it’s far more likely you will be set up for sustained success in the longer term.


As Doug says in his keynote video – You need to innovate and you need to make mistakes.  You need to be able to admit you’ve got it wrong and then move on.

Mark Barber, our project lead in Melbourne believes “The key is to have a culture of continuous improvement so that ‘ways of working’ are always evolving. We can enable this culture in many ways, such as by modelling this behaviour through leadership and encouraging experimentation through celebrating learning.”


You need to be able to have no fear, no politics.   This means yes, dare to change, but be transparent.

Steve Walton says, “Thinking and talking about what is important and then communicating objectives is key to alignment.”  He explains “When done with transparency it can motivate people to put their energy in and collaborate. Once kick started this energy creates momentum.” (editor:  Momentum is ADAPTOVATE word of the year.  Read about why here)



Decentralising decision making is a key hurdle which must be overcome.  It will help move from a “new ways of working” initiative to transforming into a dynamic and lean organisation.

Steve Walton says “Decision making must be effectively decentralised. Organisations with traditional slow and hierarchal decision making cannot move at a speed which enables teams to sustain their new momentum.”

Nathan Stickney, one of our senior consultants in Singapore, agrees “The companies that get ‘new ways of working’ to stick put their people first.

They train them, they trust them, they empower them to make decisions and have autonomy.

When you focus on people first, they can then own the new ways, and drive the outcomes that you want the new ways of working to effect.” he says.


By this we mean – Break down silos, work in smaller teams, collaborate more.

Laura Scott, a senior consultant in Sydney “You can sustain your ‘new ways of working’ by proving value, and impact and quicker output through actually working in new agile ways under guidance from the team firstly.

Secondly, by investing in a good influential Scrum Master that the team respects.” She says.

By investing in your team to continually improve these skills through training and development. Let them live the success, then when a new project starts there will be no other way that they choose to run a project.” Laura explains.


You need to be able to work it out, and not be afraid to change the model. Be Interested in making bold changes.  Dare to change.   

Chelsea Bates, our Principal in Melbourne, says “New ways of working are not about setting and forgetting or implementing once and being finished, rather it is about continuous improvement.”.  Here she re-enforces our dare to change theme.

“Understand what is working well and scale these learnings across the organisation to amplify the benefits. Understand what is not working as well as expected and, with the teams, determine how can we change our ways of working to improve.”


Laura Scott believes one of the most important elements is Exec buy in, if the Execs are on board and participating actively in the new ways of working it will be sustained.

Steve believes “My advice to leaders is, to sustain the benefits of changes they have made in the way their organisation works, is to harness the momentum they have created through keeping up their end of the deal by doing three things: 1 – keep engaging and communicating what needs to be done and why 2 – be transparent and honest about their motivations and end game 3 – respect the people who work in the organisation by acknowledging their commitment and intelligence

Slawek says “There is a significant role to play here for the leadership who set and share the aspirations and role model the desired behaviours. The goal is to make ‘new ways of working’ part of the day-to-day. Sustainable change will only happen if people experience and appreciate the benefits of it. And the benefits will come if key elements of agile are consistently and persistently applied.”

Caitilin Studdert, our principal in Sydney says “Consistent, regular review from execs and those working in ‘new ways’ look at whether the business objectives are relevant each quarter and prioritisation is on track.”


Support must be in place long enough to embed changes.

To start with, ensure you have a group of change agents.   As Slawek Koziol explains “Sustaining ‘new ways of working’ over longer term is a matter of embedding them within teams. At the beginning of the journey in every organization a group of change agents is required, be it early adopters or agile coaches within the organization or external support – consultants and coaches.

Having an internal Centre of Expertise to promote new ways of working can deliver important change momentum and help maintain consistency of approach.”

Also, look to have coach support.  As “new ways of working” initiatives often take place within part of an organisation, teams are often left to interface with traditional groups who put pressure to deliver.

“Without coach support, teams can succumb to old behaviours and slowly synchronise away from their newfound habits, undoing recent benefits.” Says Steve Walton.

THEME 8 – CONSISTENT RESTATEMENT (Repeat, repeat, repeat).

Consistent restatement and refinement of purpose and desired outcomes. Clarity of mission is essential for sustaining alignment and autonomy.

Mark Barber says “Importantly, we can’t lose sight of the reason why we wanted to change, as once this happens the organisation can stagnate and revert.”

As Slawek says “It is important to note that ‘new ways of working’ are not set in stone. Regular retrospective sessions make sure that ways of working are inspected and adapted.

Those incremental adaptations, though sometimes small and seemingly unimportant, allow for sustaining new, effective ways of working over a long time.”

Remember you can download the free poster, and other free resources here.

The Editor would like to thank the ADAPTOVATE contributors:

Mark Barber 
Chelsea Bates
Slawek Koziol
Laura Scott
Nathan Stickney
Caitilin Studdert
Steve Walton

Boosting Business Value through Organisational Transformation: four key principles.

How do we do it?

ADAPTOVATE helps organizations through their transformational change.

The business agility required in 2020 to become more productive  requires New Ways of Working with specialised training and coaching.

Leaders will often want to know, up front, how we will do it.     Cut to the chase, so to speak.      And while it’s not a cookie cutter approach, there are commonalities.   In fact, the opposite is true.  Every business has unique challenges.  However, there key principles in our methods which we will share with you in this article.

So how do we help organisations achieve business value? We use various methods to roll out these principles.  (Agile Methodology being at the core).    The best way to illustrate this is to use a few real-life examples from around our ADAPTOVATE offices.

Slawek Koziol our senior consultant in Warsaw says there are a few key non-negotiables that we put in place when we introduce new ways of working.  He says “The most important ones, in my view, are related to creating transparency and improving communication. In most cases that’s the starting point for a transformation and typically a prerequisite for other elements to be effective.”


In this case study – our client struggled with siloed teams, with people working mostly directly and individually with their line managers.

This resulted in low transparency of work which significantly impacted team communication and resulted in project delays.

Slawek explains “At that point we didn’t jump in with a ready-made solution that could be implemented overnight. Instead we sat down with the leaders and laid out a roadmap that would help create a lasting change in behaviors.”

What ADAPTOVATE started with was getting the teams in the habit of daily huddles and used whiteboards to create full transparency around all current and planned work.

What ADAPTOVATE started with was getting the teams in the habit of daily huddles and used whiteboards to create full transparency around all current and planned work. Click To Tweet

We started with the goal of just getting the teams get up and talk regularly every morning.

The formula was simple with just a few rules around the structure of the session. It took a couple of weeks to make every team member comfortable with sharing what they work on without judgement or pressure.

Chelsea Bates – our principle in Melbourne expands on the importance of transparency.

“One of the most common areas we help organisations realise tangible business value is in creating alignment through transparency. This has stopped duplication of effort where 2 or more people may have been working on the same or similar tasks.” She says.

“It has also resulted in stopping work being done which doesn’t move the team towards the agreed goal / outcome Having the team focussed on the goal and outcome and having the outcome visible helps drive conversations about what actually needs to be done to move the needle forward.” Chelsea says.


“Often when we meet clients their team has positive and ambitious objectives, however sometimes there are too many of them to enable focus.  This is where ADAPTOVATE can help distil this down.  Simplification is harder to do than it appears.” Says Caitilin Studdert from our Sydney office.

Returning to our European case study example, the teams themselves felt the need to improve the structure of the sessions to make them more effective.

Adjustments on the team boards followed. After a couple of weeks, the teams were ready to make the next step – refine their targets so that they would better reflect customer-oriented output of their work and support team collaboration.

The teams grew mature enough to recognize the value of promoting and rewarding desired behaviors, e.g. team collaboration, sharing of best practices, openness for feedback, test and learn approach as well as making commitments and actionable follow-ups.

Currently the teams self-organize to run and manage their own effective daily stand-ups, can quickly recognize and address challenges within the team and invite people from other teams to each other’s stand-ups to ensure good communication and collaboration.

All that is reflected in the teams’ efficiency and overall performance.

Causing a lasting change in behaviors requires a well-defined vision and a careful incremental, step-by-step implementation.

An experienced coach can make sure the change brings the most business value. Therefore, it is important at ADAPTOVATE that we have experienced consultants in all our offices worldwide.   Our consultants have experience in working with big and small organisations, in a variety of different industries from fintech to health.

The change a consultant will implement will typically start with, in improving transparency which in turn creates more trust and sets a whole set of other desirable effects in motion. Click To Tweet

An experienced coach can make sure the right prioritization criteria are applied and that the entire session is conducted without disruptive emotional bias, but with more focus on the strategic objectives.

Read about the Red Flags to look for when implementing change in this article.


Caitilin adds it’s important to set measurable targets which are directly linked to business value.  She explains “for example if we achieve x in this timeframe, we will see a direct y uplift in business volume or value.”  So, in parallel with getting the actual format right – we are ensuring that the business has the appropriate measures in place.

Setting up teams with specific, measurable targets is imperative. This includes visibility (transparency) of the target and frequent measurement to motivate teams as they move towards their goal.

Another example is a client we have worked with in Sydney.  With that client we achieved business value simply through implementing strong OKR’s. (ADPATOVATE use OKRs ourselves in our own business.)  The client was unable to measure the Impact that they were having on the industry.

Laura Scott, our senior consultant in our Sydney office says “We needed to be able to measure Impact and output. What better way than to implement OKR’s. Each team sat down and agreed on the company level OKR’s.   From there we sat down with the business pillars.  With  each pillar we set Key results to achieve the business level OKR’s.”


This point is very nuanced.    In another example, Steve Walton a project lead from our Melbourne office, assisted leaders at a large FinTech client. He guided them to realise that they were working on instinct and not towards an agreed and articulated strategic objective.

“This was quite a revelation to them.  It was a classic case of dedicated people expending energy without discussing if they were working on the right thing.” Steve says.

“Additionally, we helped them understand ways to focus communication on.  And organise around the big outcomes they were focusing on achieving. The value came in pausing and considering what they really wanted to achieve first, second and so on. “Steve explained.

We then worked to get them talking to the people in organisations in a more direct way.  They discussed what  was most important and aligning their effort.

Please get in touch with ADAPTOVATE if you are interested in making a step change in your business design.  We implement and have experience across small start-up to large scale global companies.  We are world leaders in our field where we can assist you achieve the change.  ADAPTOVATE do things differently.

Learn about the four pillars to identify that your organisation is going in the right direction in this article. 

Thanks to our following team member for providing valuable insight for this story.

Slawek Koziol
Laura Scott
Caitilin Studdert
Steve Walton

Why would organizations turn to New Ways of Working in 2020?

Let’s do this excercise.

We want to give you five key points why organisations should turn to New Ways of Working in 2020.

To help you identify if your organisation is ready – do you finish the sentence:

“I want my company to have…”

with any of the following…?


Working patterns have changed.   We are networked individuals, working in flatter structures who are able to work far more autonomously.

Given that freedom, our old hierarchical, almost industrial age of company structure is now breaking.    You need to have been living under a rock not to notice that the companies of the future are all adopting New Ways of Working and Agile Methodologies into their day to day.

Not because of that freedom, but to harness the energy from a connected organisation.   It’s now possible to have cross-functional collaboration like never before.

Some organisations are introducing New Ways of Working at scale across their whole global operations, while others are choosing to do it piecemeal team by team, division by division, territory by territory.

We asked a few of our senior team members from around the world, why organisations should turn to New Ways of Working in 2020.  

We hope it may help you answer some of your questions as you consider taking your own organisation or division on the journey.


Chelsea Bates is our Victorian Managing Director and Principal in the Melbourne office at ADAPTOVATE.   Chelsea is a professional management consultant and has help Government clients introduce Agile thinking into their day to day.  No easy task.

To allow government teams to be innovative and creative it takes individuals prepared to take on the traditional old school thinking and embrace enterprise agility.  Last year she partnered with Madeline Oldfield within the Victorian Government and can you read about their journey in a 3-part series published on LinkedIn.

Chelsea says “New ways of working can help organisations both find new talent and retain their current talent by providing an engaging workplace for employees.

She continues “New ways of working also allows organisations to find productivity and efficiency gains by rethinking how work is approached and delivered.”


Our partner and co-founder Doug Ross believes “New ways of working focuses on the seed in taking an idea to market to test with customers.”    He explains “If it launches well, great (you are in the minority), if it doesn’t launch well the speed at which you pivot and release an adjusted idea again is a large part of sustainable success in the 2020s.”

“The companies that reduce the cost of failure, win in over the long run.” Doug says.

The companies that reduce the cost of failure, win in over the long run. Click To Tweet


Nate Nelson  joined ADAPTOVATE last year as the Managing Director in the LA office of our US division.  He has led numerous digital transformational efforts.   Digital transformation has taken many companies by surprise.   If they don’t make the change quick enough, they rapidly fall behind.  And technology is moving fast.  Nate explains “The pace of change is driving organizations to make better, faster decisions to stay ahead of the competition. Implementing ‘new ways of working’ in an organization is the engine behind this.” He says.

The pace of change is driving organizations to make better, faster decisions to stay ahead of the competition. Implementing 'new ways of working' in an organization is the engine behind this. Click To Tweet

Which is an important distinction to reflect on.   ‘New ways of working’ is not in and of itself the point.  As Nate, says, ‘new ways of working ‘is the engine that will allow you to keep up with (or begin) the digital transformation that your company is embarking on.

In our Europe office, ADAPTOVATE senior consultant Slawek Koziol has extensive experience in executing strategic transformation in large companies.   Slawek, an Agile enthusiast, explains why companies need to adopt new ways of working in 2020. “Global economic slowdown forces companies to look for more effective ways of working, iterative project financing and de-risking of delivery.”

He continues “Technology allows companies to grow and at an unprecedented rate. Dynamic competition and disintermediation put profitability margins under growing pressure.

Technology is prevalent and indispensable for any and all business. A growing number of businesses realize that fact and start to see themselves technology companies that also happen to provide certain business services at the same time.”

Only organizations with cross-functional teams that are able to iteratively develop and improve products and release them often will win.”  He says.


“Adaption has become a matter of survival.” says Steve Walton, and ADAPTOVATE consultant who spent most of last year working in New York with one of our clients.  Originally from Melbourne, Steve has worked with companies across the spectrum including tech, finance, energy and government.

Steve says “Companies can no longer afford to offer products and services which are not valued by customers. Traditional corporations which were not changing, have drawn down their reserves in both cash and reputation.”

Rachna Verma is a consultant with ADAPTOVATE in our Sydney Headquarters.   Rachna specialises in leading teams to collaborate on problem solving and deliver solutions through Agile methodologies.   She believes “The new year is a great time to start with a retro and deep dive into things that didn’t go so well and what could we do differently next time.

This neatly segues into defining actionable improvements,” she says, “voting via a dotmocracy and then giving it a go with a ‘test and learn’ approach.”

Rachna explains “Organisations will come to the realisation that their current ways of working are not delivering the outcomes that they need. You can’t do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.

You have to radically change what you are doing in order to grow, learn and see an increase in output.” She says.


Turning to New Ways of Working becomes a business necessity Slawek believes.  “What I personally hope for in 2020 is that more and more companies review their strategic approach and company-wide incentives and focus them around creating customer rather than shareholder value.”  He thinks “that would prioritize longer-term sustainable and profitable innovation over short term financial goals.

Slawek says this bold move can set the company on a path of successful growth. This also means empowering nimble cross functional teams to deliver value that customers will appreciate. “That is what agile is about.” Slawek says.

[Editor’s note: our obligatory plug: ADAPTOVATE has experienced and provided service to all of the above scenarios. We coach and we consult, and everything in between.   We are 100 percent client orientated to work with what will best suit the situation and organisational structure and challenge.  If you are unsure exactly what you need, we can help tease that out for you, so please get in touch with any of the people tagged in this article. Ok plug over !]