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A Liberating Training Retrospective

September 22, 2017

About a year ago Christiaan Verwijs and I started providing the Professional Scrum Master course together. The world would never be the same again... :) From the start we wanted to give the participants not only an awesome training, but also help them put all the ideas into practice. Therefore we decided to offer every participant (public course) and organization (private course) the option of a free Retrospective 6 - 8 weeks after the training. The goal of this Retrospective is to discuss the progress everyone has made since the Scrum training and determine which actionable and committed improvements should be worked on the upon.

This week I facilitated such a Retrospective at Senfal; a tech company with a clear vision: a clean world powered by sustainable energy. Based on the feedback it was a useful session. In this blog post I'll share the format I've used and especially the Liberating Structures techniques that were helpful. If you're a trainer this article might inspire you to start organizing a Retrospective as well (in case you're not doing it already). If you're a participant attending a training: propose this idea to the trainer :)

Of course this Retrospective is just one idea. I'm always eager to learn from you as well, so please share your thoughts about how to have more meaningful impact with a training!

Liberating Structures

First some information about Liberation Structures. In the article "Liberating Structures: Unleash and Involve Everyone" Christiaan Verwijs offers a nice explanation. Liberating Structures are a set of 33 'microstructures' by Keith McCandless and Henri Lipmanowicz that are designed to 'involve and unleash everyone'. Every individual microstructure strikes a balance between structure and control on the one hand, and thinking individually and as a group on the other. They are simple and easy to learn, making it easy to pick them up and spread them throughout your organization. Another benefit is that most microstructures easily scale from small to huge groups. The website offers a full list of the 33 microstructures. But there's also a book.

Impromptu Networking

We started the Retrospective with the technique "Impromptu Networking". This technique invites the group to rapidly share challenges and expectations, and build new connections. After asking the group to form pairs, everyone got 3 minutes to refresh their learning goals and discuss the progress they've made. I've let them change partners 3 times, so that's 3 rounds of 3 minutes. With this technique you engage everyone from the beginning and as a result the earlier set learning goals were on top of mind again.


In groups of 3 -4 persons I asked them to perform a simple "plus/delta" exercise. Taking your learning goals into account, what are you satisfied with (plus) and what could have gone better (delta). It was also fine to use the questions: regarding the adoption of Scrum, what are you satisfied about and what could be improved? After sharing the results with each other and some dot-voting the group came up with 3 topics to discuss in more detail.

25/10 Crowd Sourcing & 15% Solutions

After the "plus/delta" exercise I've combined the two Liberating Structures techniques "25/10 Crowd Sourcing" and "15% Solutions". 25/10 Crowd Sourcing is a concept that can be used to rapidly generate and sift a group's most powerful actionable ideas. It's described as a fun, fast, casual, yet serious and valid way to generate an uncensored set of bold ideas and then to tap the wisdom of the whole group to identify the top ten. I've combined it with 15% solutions to let them focus on solutions that are possible immediately.

The sequence of the steps I've used

  • Ask everyone to sit in a circle and take 1 index card
  • Write down the topic to improve as a title on the index card. This is 1 of the 3 topics that were defined during the "plus/delta" exercise. In total we've done 25/10 Crowd Sourcing 3 times (one round per topic)
  • Every person describes his/her 15% solution on the front of the index card
  • When everyone is done, start the 5 exchange-and-score rounds. Each person individually rates the 15% solution on their card with a score of 1 to 5 (1 for low and 5 for high) and writes it on the back of the card. This is called "Read and Score."
  • This is done for a total of five scoring rounds. At the end of cycle five, participants add the five scores on the back of the last card they are holding.
  • Finally, the ideas with the top 3 scores are identified and shared with the whole group.
  • So in total, we've finished the session with 9 ideas (3 ideas for the 3 topics).

Actionable & Committed Improvements

The 25/10 Crowd Sourcing exercise resulted in 9 ideas. However, they we're still pretty vague. Therefore we selected the 3 ideas for the most important improvement and refined them in small teams for 15 minutes. The goal was to make them as tangible and actionable as possible. The final and most important step was to ask the group how to commit themselves to these items. Luckily some people volunteered to become the "topic-owner" and take responsibility to realize the improvement. With this, the 2-hour Retrospective had come to an end.


In this blog post I've shared our idea of doing a free Retrospective after every training we provide. The goal of this session is to inspect the progress that has been made and define actionable and committed improvements for the upcoming period. Our role is being a facilitator, not a teacher. Of course we'll share knowledge if that's appropriate, but the main goal is inviting them to discover their own learning path.

As mentioned before, this Retrospective is just one idea. I'm always eager to learn from you as well, so please share your thoughts about how to have more meaningful impact with a training!

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