Thursday, 12 December 2013

An Agile Christmas Story

Today was the first day of the last iteration for 2013! To celebrate the EDW Release Train had a Christmas theme for Unity Day.
Gingerbread Reindeer 

It all started after our Movember "Ginger-Mo" fund raising event, when one of the team showed me how to turn an upside down gingerbread man into a gingerbread reindeer. The next thing I know we are planning Christmas pudding chocolate crackles, mistletoe cup cakes and meringue Christmas trees. The end result being a Christmas themed Unity Hour with just one condition from from Development Manger, +Wayne Palmer: "As long as I don't have to dress up as an elf!"

My boss dressed as Santa
Wayne would live to regret planting that idea in my head. While Christmas shopping on the weekend I came across an Christmas Elf t-shirt and couldn't resist purchasing it for Wayne to wear. Luckily he is a good sport. He even offered to wear green tights, but there was universal consensus that this was unnecessary! Not wanting to leave behind the rest of my team I also purchased Christmas t-shirts and Santa hats for my other direct reports. Before I managed to escape the shopping centre I came across $12 Santa suits, now this was really too good to resist, would my boss be willing to dress up as Santa? As it turns out he is also a good sport and immediately responded "Sure. No Problem." to my Saturday afternoon text message.

With my boss in a Santa suit, my team in their various Christmas t-shirts and plenty of Christmas treats to eat we were ready to end the year on a high. For me the end of the year is always an excellent time to reflect. We decided to use Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" as the base for the agenda - Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future.

For the Christmas Past section, we asked everyone to take an index card and a Sharpie and spend a few moments reflecting on the year that was. What is their largest regret, the one thing they wish they could change?  With each person having written down one thing. We asked them to "let go" of the past by tearing up the card and giving the remnants to our resident skeleton "Meh" to "take to the gates of hell". There is something so cathartic about writing something down, tearing it up and letting it go. We did have to reassure some team members a couple of times that we wouldn't try and reconstruct their cards!

Christmas Present was a time to celebrate. We asked everyone to think about who had been naughty and nice in 2013, while they enjoyed a cup of coffee and a Christmas treat. We then asked the team to share their thoughts with the group. With the exception of calling out a certain Scrum Master that likes to "borrow" Sharpies and not return them, people focused on thanking those they had worked with in 2013.

Em & Wayne
We closed with Christmas Future. The day before I e-mailed the team:
Santa is coming to Unity Day! Santa would like to know your Christmas wish for the EDW Release Train. One of Santa’s elves will place a wish card on your desk today. Please find a minute to clearly write one or two words with a Sharpie on your wish card  and bring it with you tomorrow morning where each of you will be able to share your wish with Santa and the broader team. Merry Christmas one and all!
Each team member read out their wish and gave it to Santa's helpers to create a word cloud. The wishes ranged from "world peace" to "a new Sharpie" (from the Sharpie stealer of course). There was a theme about Xboxs and PS4s (and even one request for a PS5!) and a really inspiring set of wishes about enablers for continuous delivery. Looks like Santa is going to have his work cut out for him!

While this set of activities obviously doesn't hit the mark in terms of a true retrospective, it was a fun way to reflect on the year that was and prepare for the year ahead.


  1. The sharpie was used in the retro straight after..... thanks Em

  2. Em, you are brilliant as usual in the wit and love you bring to your work as well as to how you write about that love. Your team truly does understand 'Unity' in the way that they trust you and one another. I love the Charles Dickens theme for the retrospective and futurespective. At least no-one saw a dark ghost and a grave with their name on it for Christmas Future :-) Congratulations on another phenomenal post. And in true Tabaka fashion, I will be stealing some of your ideas. Thanks for being a giver :-)

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