One of the scrum ceremonies the Scrum Master facilitates in the sprint Retrospective. I don’t think its fair or accurate to say that one of the ceremonies is more important than the other as they are all a vital part of the Scrum process. However, as an empirical process the retrospective is the real chance for the team to inspect and discuss their practices whilst agreeing achievable improvements they can make to their process for the next sprint. A team which doesn’t utilise the retrospective does so at their peril.

As a Scrum Master I use numerous techniques to help engage the team and ensure that all team members have an adequate opportunity to contribute. This post is about the mood chart technique I have used with many teams.

What you need

  • A white board or flip chart (i’ve also used Lync’s online whiteboard for a distributed team
  • Pens (ideally as many different colours to differentiate the team members)
  • A room large enough to size your team

What to do

Ideally use a room without a table in the middle as this tends to stifle creativity and participation. If you have a table in the room see if you can move it to the side. Arrange the chairs in a circle around the board or flip chart. Draw two axis on the chart, the x axis represents the duration of the sprint and the y axis represents the happiness (closer to zero being unhappy).

After introducing and “setting the scene” for the retrospective ask each member of the team to take a pen and chart their mood throughout the sprint. If you don’t have a coloured pen for each team member make sure you annotate which line relates to which team member.

When all lines have been drawn its time to discuss the mood. Firstly I look for any large change in someones mood and ask them what affected their mood (either positively or negatively). This gives a large list of discussion points for the team. It also gives a great visual indicator to the team of their sprint and the highs and lows of the team. I usually annotate each point on the chart that has been discussed so that the output isn’t lost.

At the end of the discussion i usually ask the team to vote on their top points from the discussions to decide on the actions for the next sprint by picking the top two or three rated actions.