Want to try a new way with retrospectives?
Want to promote good conversation? And have fun as you go?
Since introducing retrospective dialogue sheets in 2011 teams all over the world have found the sheets promote conversation and reflection. Teams at ThoughtWorks, Siemens, Motorola and Microsoft have all used the sheets. Several designs of sheet are available to vary retrospectives.
Dialogue sheets are a technique invented in Stockholm at the Royal Institute for Technology, KTH. The intention is to promote good conversation and can be used for a variety of discussion based activities.
I learned the dialogue sheet technique from Bayes Business School (which was called Cass at the time) and developed the idea to produce a series of dialogue sheets which can be used by teams for retrospectives, Agile Kick-off and team discussions.
“Just to let you know we completed our first wash up using your retro’ boards. Feedback from the group on the format was well liked, the MD loved them, and wants to use them to decorate some shared spaces in the building! Most pleasing bit for me was that after the session, we spontaneously wanted to sign them for prosperity, that’s got to be a good sign! Bravo!” Andy Bartlett, Worlds Apart
Retrospective Dialogue Sheets are now in use with many teams at companies and organisations including: Microsoft, ThoughtWorks, Siemens, Motorola Mobility, Alcatel-Lucent, Aricent Group, Sage, Rail Inc, Penrillian, 1e, App Folio Property Management, Amgen, Idaho State Government (Health & Welfare Dept), Victoria University, New Zealand and many more.
“Because of the time difference I had the Bangalore team work their sheet while they were in their office, and I was sleeping. While the team here divided into 2 groups and worked independently I left the room and had a debrief with the Bangalore team. … I was a bit nervous about trying something new with but the energy in the room was tremendous. In fact I had several people tell me it was the best retrospective they have had in years.” Gail Fishman, Siemens Medical Solutions USA
Dialogues Sheets Explained
A dialogue sheet itself is a large, A1 or similar size, piece of paper which is decorated with questions, quotes, illustrations and space for thinking. The questions on the sheet serve to guide the team through the dialogue sheet process and focus thinking on the subject of the dialogue sheet.
Typically a team of 3 to 8 will spend between one and two hours working the sheet. They will normally record their thoughts, comments and observations directly onto the sheet. At the end of the exercise the sheet may be retained for future reference, hung on a wall, photographed or any one other anything else which the team find helpful.
I initially developed a series of dialogue sheets for retrospectives. These are available for free from as PDF files. To successfully use the dialogue sheet it will need printing. Since few companies have an A1 sized printer this can be difficult and requires the help of a print shop.
“Team members found the approach novel and enjoyable, keeping them engaged and interested in the retrospective.”Team member, Nature.com
The success of the retrospective dialogue sheets has led to the creation of several sheet for us in team discussions or kick-off meetings. For example, the Agile Kick-Off sheet is intended for teams which are embarking on Agile working. This sheet provides all team members an opportunity to talk about what they like (and don’t like) about Agile and which practices they wish to adopt.
“We’re a team that has run over 50 retrospectives. We like dialogue sheets because they take us in new directions and help provide fresh perspectives and insights.”Ed Sykes, Senior Software Engineer, 1e Ltd.
What People Say
Some interesting write-ups in publications:
- Agile Connection published Why Dialogue Sheet Retrospectives Are Important. (08/2013)
- InfoQ published Dialogue Sheets Revisited reporting on the use of retrospective dialogue sheets. (04/13)
- InfoQ published an update on Dialogue Sheets and results. (01/12)
- The Methods & Tools journal carried an article on Retrospective Dialogue Sheets. (10/11)
“Your dialogue sheet has been a powerful tool in helping our newer team members to get their input heard and visible. Before we used your sheet, it was becoming an issue for the retrospectives that we weren’t really always getting to root cause or even getting visibility to all the issues that impacted our sprint. Your dialogue sheets have enabled us to build in an easy way to get everyone involved in the retrospective.”Mike Wickham, Department of Health & Welfare, Idaho State Government
Some people have captured their experiences with Dialogue Sheets online:
- Nicolas Umiastowski blogged about using a Dialogue Sheet with a team in France (French).
- Maria Kademo wrote a blog about her first use of Dialogue Sheets with a team in Sweden.
- Russell Smith wrote a blog about his teams use of Dialogue Sheets.
- Thomas Almnes at Agile 2012 in Oslo (Norwegian).
Watch the video: Ed Sykes mounted a Dialogue Sheet behind glass and erased it after each retrospective.
“It was a new way of doing the retrospective …I have the impression that this gives energy to the team.” Scrum Master, Alcatel-Lucent
A few of the dialogue sheets have been translated to other languages. This work has been done by volunteers. We don’t really make any money out of the sheets so we can’t justify paying anyone for further translations.
I would love to have more sheets translated to other languages and are quite happy to share the existing sheets for translation. If you are interested in translating any sheet please get in contact.
The original files were produced using OmniGraffle on MacOSX. If you have OmniGraffle then we can simply share the file. If you do not, for example, you are using Windows then will need another application. Visio is the usual one for PCs but there can be file import/export problems. We have tried PowerPoint in the past and this is far from good.
Once the translation is done we would like to host the PDF on this website with the other available sheets. This doesn’t preclude you hosting it too, I just like to keep the sheets together. If you translate a sheet we insist you add a credit for yourself to the sheet.
Finally me (Allan Kelly), and my company, Software Strategy, own the copyright to the sheets and while we are prepared to share we need think of the clip-art. The clip-art has all been bought to avoid any copyright problems. Thus if you want to produce your own sheets or change our sheets substantially you will need to replace the clip-art entirely with art you have the rights too.
All translations so far have been done by volunteers. We would like to thank the following people:
- Alan Baldo for Portuguese translations
- Laurent Carbonnaux for the first Sprint translation to French
- Nicolas Umiastowski for translating the T1 sheet to French
- Matias Iacono for translation to Spanish
- Pietari Kettunen for translation to Finnish
- Sun Yuan-Yuan for German translations
- Juliana Stepanova for Russian translation
- Michal Markos for Czech translation
- Jowen Mei and Marion Zouteriks for Dutch translations
- November 2019: Dutch translations added
- October 2019: Team Retrospective cards introduced
- January 2019: Czech translation added
- September 2018: Russian translation added
- Spring 2018: German and Portuguese translations online; printed dialogue sheets for sales on Amazon
- July 2017: Migrated to AllanKellyAssociates.co.uk
- 3 Feb 2017: Migrated from Software Strategy website to AllanKelly.net
- 11/2014: Xanpan Planning DS available in French.
- 10/2013: Video introduction added; T2 sheet retired.
- 05/2013: Iteration Planning sheet released for testing.
- 04/2013: InfoQ publish Dialogue Sheets Revisited.
- 04/2012: French and Spanish translation of Sprint Retrospective DS, Spanish version of Agile Thinking DS.