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How to Conduct a Thanksgiving Retrospective

Updated: Mar 2, 2022

When UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center launched its thanx4 pilot project, an online gratitude journal, they were surprised to find such a high correlation between gratitude and happiness. Each day would ask people for something they've been thankful for and recorded their emotional state along the way. All 1600 participants reported feeling more positive in days when they displayed gratitude. This included feeling more happy, inspired, and loving. They also reported fewer negative emotions, such as sadness, boredom, or discouragement.

Managers, why should you care?

A recent Oxford study confirmed that happy employees are 13% more productive. However, one study showed that even though American employees are grateful, and they believe gratitude is important, they are not very good at expressing it. Only 10 percent of the participants admitted thanking a colleague, and 60 percent reported they never or extremely rarely express gratitude at work.

So how can you foster more gratitude among Agile teams?

I once witnessed a practice during my MBA studies that stuck with me. During a meeting of successful local entrepreneurs, the meeting opened with one powerful statement; "Gratitude is the currency we trade." Each board member then took turns to call out someone in the room and thank them for something they had done to help them since the last meeting. This started the sessions on a positive note and made the members excited about collaborating.

I have since adapted this practice to my teams' retrospectives. At the start of the retrospective, each member will call out someone they would like to thank for something they did during the past Sprint by filling the blanks.

Gratitude statements:

I would like to thank <Team Member> for <Reason> because it helped me <Benefit>.

But what about the person that doesn't get called on? They might end up feeling left out. So, I changed it up a bit to avoid this awkward scenario. For this retrospective:

1- Team members take turns to "sit" in the middle of the room. For remote teams, the person's video may be placed at the top of the video screen, or a picture of the person is shared via desktop sharing. By making the person the most important person in the room, they automatically feel appreciated.

2- The rest of the team members then take turns to make a gratitude statement about the center person. This approach makes sure that everyone has the opportunity to think about how they appreciate each of their team members.

3- Hold a Futurespective round - Of course, retrospectives are about continuous improvement or Kaizen, and the event's output should be at least one thing that the team will do in the next Sprint to improve. That's why it's important to include an additional round where each team states one thing they would like to be thankful for in the next Sprint. It's a form of asking what we can do better in the next Sprint. Instead of individuals, this round is about the full team working together to achieve something.

In the next Sprint, we would like to be thankful for <Action> because it helped us <Benefit>.

4- Have team members “dot vote” on their chosen item – Dot voting is a great way to surface priorities and reach consensus. Each team gets a limited number of dots and votes by placing dots on their preferred items. Remote teams can use a real-time whiteboarding tool such as Miro or Mural to collaborate during this exercise. For small teams, the Zoom Annotate feature can also work to place the dots on a shared list of items. The items with the most votes are then prioritized accordingly.

5- Add the future respective item to the top of the backlog and take it up during the next Sprint.

Keep that gratitude flowing and you’ll foster a much happier and productive work environment for everybody!



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