The “Three L’s” is a retrospective activity where you will ask the group to focus on a given timeline. This type of retrospectives is particularly useful when analyzing sprints, usually two-week iterations used in agile software development.
Note that I’ll be referring to the timeline as a sprint to make it easier when you read 🙂
Preparing the board
You should be in the room before everyone gets there and ensure all the materials are there so you get a faster start to the session. Each member should have a pile of post-its and a marker.
Draw on the whiteboard three sections with the titles: Liked, Lacked, Learned. Ensure you also draw a box for Actionable Items where you’ll collect the output from this session.
Let’s dive into it
Once everyone is in the room, start by collecting all the actions of the previous retrospective and cross off the ones that were completed. Ensure that the ones that remain have full ownership and that the owner is accountable for completing them.
Explain that each member has 10 minutes to think about the sprint, and fill post-its for the following topics:
- Liked: Something that they liked during the sprint.
- Lacked: What did dislike about the sprint or feel could be improved
- Learned: Something that they learned during the sprint that they didn’t know before it started
Ready? Set? Go! Everyone should now focus and write their post-its. Once the time runs out everyone should stop writing and focus on the sharing session.
Everyone should share
Now that you have all the data, each person should place their post-it on the whiteboard (or the remote equivalent) and, in a very brief sentence, summarize what the post-it means. If the topic has already been addressed then the post-it should be placed on top of the previous one.
Once everyone has placed their post-its, assign votes to each person so they can vote on the topics they want to discuss the most.
Depending on the remaining time for your session choose topics to discuss by selecting the topics with a higher number of votes. A good rule of thumb is 10 minutes per topic.
Promote a good environment for discussion and serve as a moderator ensuring that everyone has their turn to talk and make their voices heard. If the time runs out to discuss the topic be firm and allow the group to make one of two decisions. Either they continue to discuss the topic, possibly being unable to discuss more topics, or you schedule a session to discuss that topic alone.
Focus on this
Throughout this exercise, one of the most important sections to focus on is the Learned column because that’s where everyone will add what they found most interesting about the sprint. Everyone, especially software developers, want to keep on being challenged and learn new topics or skills (not necessarily only technical) so pay close attention to that column.
Remember, the Liked items are to be celebrated, the Lacked to create actionable items but the Learned is where you’ll feel the pulse and happiness of the team.
As always ensure that you leave the session with actionable items and owners of those items responsible for seeing them to completion. Its important to have everyone understand that you weren’t just there for a conversation but for a productive exercise to improve the team’s communication, transparency, happiness and productivity.
There is a quite well-known variation of this activity called “The Four L’s” where you can add a new topic to discuss, Longed For, where people can add what they wished existed in this sprint.
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