Pathfinder retrospective

Sprint retrospective idea – Help your team find their best path forward

What is the Pathfinder retrospective?

Similar to the Lean Coffee approach, the pathfinder retrospective opens up the floor for teams to make a list of whatever topics they would like to discuss then explore ways to change or new experiments to try.

The goal of this open space approach is to allow them to bring up any topic or area that they would like to discuss without a premeditated agenda or leading set of questions. Unlike the Lean Coffee approach which has a more Kanban style, the focus shifts to things that they could possibly change, or new activities that can be pursued and measured. There is a “solutions focus” as opposed to task management and therefore more innovative thinking is required.

An example of the Pathfinder approach might be that the team is struggling with managing communication flow between the product development team and the quality assurance team. One of the changes might be to update the operating or workflow process, and something that they might like to try is introduce a new real time approval platform.

This is a good activity to perform with a remote or distributed team when there is a need to explore a breadth of topics, rather than a specific theme or focus.

Try this as a more open approach with new teams or where you might not know exactly where you want to start or focus the retrospective.

Pathfinder retrospective format

Let’s discuss

Give the team time and space to list down a range of topics that they would like to talk about the most. Let them know that this can be anything that is on their mind and create a safe space by building in team agreements and social contracts whether you introduce Chatham House rules or having a shared understanding to create psychological safety.

Individual brainstorming might be best so that they feel like they can add anything, and you can also make the brainstorming process during the remote team meeting anonymous.

Let’s change

These are the aspects that they believe that they would like to take forward. What are the things they can control, influence or impact? This might be personally, within the team, or just outside their circle.

A good thing to remember here is to try and focus the discussion on aspects that the team can actually control. Going beyond this can be a negative cycle as the team gets frustrated by focussing on aspects that they cannot change or influence. Changes could be anything from systems, technology, processes through to communication skills, technical experiments and actions to take forward.

Let’s try

Based on the suggested changes, the team then agrees and lists the aspects that they would most like to try.

Using independent voting in TeamRetro means you can check that you have buy-in and input from the team. These can be further refined and proposed as action items or agreements in TeamRetro.

Suggested Icebreaker questions for Pathfinder retrospective

  • When have you felt lost?
  • What helps you keep on track?
  • What would make a difference to your work or personal happiness today

Retro Rehearsal

Invite your team to rehearse the retro referencing a home-based project.

For example, what would you like to discuss, change or try before painting a room?

Ideas and tips for your Pathfinder retrospectives

  • A great way to kick off this retro is to ask everyone to share one thing that would make a difference to their work or personal happiness today. This helps break the ice and pave the way to some open conversations.

  • As this format means that any topic can be raised, anonymous settings are usually more suitable.

  • A great question to ask during this exercise is “What would throw our team off the path?”

  • Use the way teams vote to manage culture. You’ll get interesting insights when people vote individually. The last thing you want is the sheep mentality where people simply follow what has already been done.
  • A thank you goes a long way. Give a shout out to the team at the end of the meeting.

  • You can create team agreements and get buy-in for team actions by using reactions or by proposing them to the team for a straw vote. TeamRetro lets you do this digitally, instantly and effectively.

  • Follow up with an action list that you will check off at the start of the next team retro.

  • This can be run on a one-on-one basis as well as a team.
  • Using the vote option allows you to decide what are the most important aspects to discuss.

How to run a Pathfinder retrospective in TeamRetro

Start Agile Retrospective

Start your retrospective in a click
Log into TeamRetro and choose your sprint retrospective template.

Invite Your Team
Invite your team easily – no separate accounts needed
Send an email invite, a link or add to your Slack channel to get people started quickly. SSO options are also available.
Agile Retrospective Brainstorm
Time to brainstorm
Each team member can now brainstorm individually under each topic. This avoids group think and allows everyone to have their say. They can indicate when they have finished, or you can set a timer so that you know when to move onto the next stage.
Grouping of ideas after brainstorming in a retrospective meeting
Group related ideas
Drag and drop  related ideas to combine them for easier voting. TeamRetro can also automatically suggest ideas that are similar, saving you and your team valuable time.
Grouping of ideas after brainstorming in a retrospective meeting
Vote independently to avoid anchoring
Each team member votes on what they would most like to discuss further. The results won’t be displayed to everyone until you advance to Discuss.
Grouping of ideas after brainstorming in a retrospective meeting

Discuss the most important things first
You and your team discuss the top voted ideas and can capture deep dive comments.  Presentation mode allows you to walk your team through ideas one-by-one and keep the conversation focused.

Grouping of ideas after brainstorming in a retrospective meeting

Review and create actions

Easily facilitate discussion by bringing everyone onto the same page. Create action items, assign owners and due dates that will carry through for review at the next retrospective.

Grouping of ideas after brainstorming in a retrospective meeting

Share the results
Once you have finished your retro, you can share the results and actions with the team. Your retro will be stored so you can revisit them as needed.

Congratulations! You’ve just run a retro like a boss.
Want more? Read on.