This is an idea I presented at the Retrospective Facilitator’s Gathering in May 2019. Newspaper articles tell stories based on facts. So this retrospective idea is to use this metaphor to capture data, analyze it, and decide on some actions. In some ways, it is similar to the team co-creating an A3 report. Each person is a reporter bringing the news back and then becoming the collective team creating the newspaper. Expect this to take between 30-120 minutes depending on the length of the iteration and what happened during it.

Gathering Data

After opening the retro, let people in individually write 1-5 sentences about various aspects of what went well or didn’t go well. All the sentences should be based on fact, though allowing ‘squishy’ words like ‘many’, ‘often’, etc should be OK – if these become important the analysis portion can help qualify these. If these have data that can back them up, they can be include, such as “we had 3 broken builds this iteration”. These articles should get categorized by the writer into the following news sections:

  • Politics are all articles about team collaboration
  • Technology is all about tool usage
  • Business is all about the process
  • Science is about new discoveries or learning the team has made
  • Foreign Affairs is all about things external to the team
  • The Nation is the section devoted to things about management
  • Real Estate is the section devoted to physical space (meeting rooms, team space, etc.)

Analysis/Gaining Insights

After the initial creation of stories, the team would come together and combine like stories. This is where multiple perspectives now are coming together. The team would take these similar stories and provide analysis on these stories, collectively writing what they think is happening. For those ‘squishy’ words, they can be replaced with more quantitative or more descriptive qualitative words. Diagrams could be added. If people had categorized the same thoughts into different sections, part of the analysis can be agreeing on where it best fits.

Finally, they prioritize the 1-3 that will appear to be on the front page, analyze those as well; if not analyzed because of similarity. The other parts of the paper can be laid out into their appropriate sections (it’s OK not to have certain sections represented). Using the metaphor and laying out the newspaper is where the fun part is injected into this retro technique.

Decide What to Do

For those on the front page, create the planned elements or experiments that will be done to correct these (or amplify them if they are positive), adding these sentences onto the story. In many cases, options for solving the problem may be discussed. These can be captured into the story as well for later reference.

Final front page stories then wind-up being 1-5 factual statements of the problem, 1-3 sentences of analysis, and 1-3 actions (with options) that can be taken. A few other stories later in the newspaper wind up being factual statements and analysis, and most are just factual statements. These would be categorized into the appropriate sections and later retros could review the newspaper in future retros.

The fun part of the retro is doing the layout along the way, so don’t miss out by just having people write stuff. It is also worthwhile that the team give the newspaper a name and date it, just like a real newspaper.

If you decide to try this, I’d LOVE to hear how it went!

7 thoughts on “Newspaper Retro”

  1. My team LOVED this retro. They wanted to tell other teams about how great it was before we were even done. I ran it remotely for a team of 6 people. We are not currently allowed to use video but we can share screens (bandwidth issue with my client). In advance, I created a PowerPoint deck and posted it to our team SharePoint so we could all edit and see it during retro. (We use Skype for Business). It ran ~75 minutes which included setting the stage (sharing the concept, explaining the paper’s sections, answering questions about the process. We run 3 week sprints so 90 minutes would have given us enough time to not feel rushed in the 2nd half of the guide. Doing it remote added some challenges. I knew gathering the “story ideas” from each member’s desk (aka their own working slide in the deck) into our “newsroom” slide was going to be cumbersome, so gave them a 5 minute “coffee break” in my agenda (which I shared with them while setting the stage). With a larger team or under strict time constraints, I think other accommodations can be made. a) Setting the stage prior to retro & assigning the team “homework” such that they come to retro with their “story ideas” written and consolidated, b) Making the team work in pairs or small groups to converge on “stories” to be written, c) having pairs or small groups write the actual stories (they can be the writing/editing team for a section)…. Welcome other ideas. Thanks Paul!

  2. Hey,
    Me and my team did this too! It was very appreciated, everyone thought it was fun! Our finished frontpage was passed around the office as an example of what we should be doing.
    We did out frontpage in Word with an template called “Lifestyle newspaper”. I had prepared a bunch of pictures in advance that we could use for the articles. Took an hour.
    Big thanks for the inspiration, now I’m the retrospect-guy in the office.

  3. Thank you for sharing this retro. I used it for a Program retro of our Agile Transformation today, taking into account the feedback from Reto and it worked great. We had 18 people and I asked them to stand near the Newspaper section they wanted to write articles for, all the sections had people and then we followed the rest of your directions. Team really liked it and we got it done in 50 minutes! Thank you!

  4. Hi
    I made a newspaper retro this week with my team.
    What went well:
    – we used one EasyFlip per Newspaper chapter to stick the collected articles on. You can easily stick papers on those EasyFlips and rearrange them
    – The size of the front page naturally limits space for the most important stories, so focussing was easy with this technique
    – It was fun to do the retro
    – The result, i.e. the front page with the most important findings, analyses and assigned persons looked nice and a picture of it served as the Todo summary for the next sprint.

    What could I have done better:
    – I made the participants distribute their articles to the different sections themselves. Then we went as a whole group from section to section to clean up (i.e. remove duplicates, add some information to clarify the statement). This slowed the process down, and not everybody was involved. In fact, me as the retro host was the only one writing. Better: distribute the team to the different sections, make them clean up each section in parallel, max three per section. Then have a look at the cleaned up section as a group and discuss, if similar articles are in several sections.

    I will definitely repeat this retro, I liked it and it added some change to our retros.

    1. Thanks for that feedback, I am planning this for my team’s next retro and your comments really helped me to polish up the plan!

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