codeX serves candidates living in resource-constrained communities, who are particularly hard-hit during hard lockdown. Without social connectivity we quickly lose perspective on our journey & progress in relation to each other. Retrospectives in particular are high-collaboration events that rely on feeling connected to generate the safety required for introspection and sharing.
This is difficult enough in high-bandwidth environments; in this situation we needed to keep our coders feeling connected while also taking into consideration low-connectivity, high data costs, infrastructure outages (notably electricity and internet), and infrequent privacy.
With participants having unreliable internet, we had found Whatsapp data to be the most reliably available data, and had consequently been using Whatsapp extensively, with Group Chats replicating Slack channels.
Creative Image Retrospective
This exercise draws on metaphor, spatial awareness, a sense of the unexpected, and appreciation for each others’ efforts, in order to make meaningful connections.
I typically run this part of a retrospective as part of a series of creative fluency exercises, and had previously only run it with co-located teams, where participants can draw directly onto the pieces of paper and share their insights verbally.
The creative exercise comes from:
- elements of surrealism that draw on the subconscious: ‘automatic drawing’
- the Accept & Build principle from Improv, and
- the idea that when drawing it is easier to build on an idea than to create an idea from scratch (overcoming the ‘blank canvas’ challenge).
Participants are provided with a square with a fragment of a line drawing with little obvious association, and asked to add to the fragment to create something that represents their day / sprint etc.
To avoid the ‘judgement trap’ of drawing-based interaction, there needs to be a wide variety of starter images such that all participants on the team have different images.
In this case we had 35 participants, so images were re-used but spread across different teams, so that while there was repetition, no teams had the exact same set of images.
To adapt this for remote retrospectives, I sent instructions to edit the images & what to share with the group to the larger group channels, and ‘cut up’ the image fragments digitally, and sent them privately to individuals.
Participants could make use of “quiet self-reflection” time while editing the images in Whatsapp, and share to their teams (typically ±8 people), and if desired to the larger group.
This exercise served as a springboard for story-telling, combining openness, courage & light-heartedness.
Whatsapp Instructions to the group:
Whatsapp “Slack” Channels