WHO: Does your team resist measuring things, or do they only want to share the good and hide the rest? Do they complain about having to measure anything or think that if they do they will loose sight of customer needs, pain points, the product and/or get lost in all of the details? Do they understand the WHY of the Three Pillars of Empiricism in Scrum; as in why the pillars are critical to be successful, how it helps a team be successful, and how necessary it is for Scrum? Then, this is the Retrospective for you/them!

ORIGIN: When I thought of the learning objective for this Retrospective I thought, “I need a scene that shows the value of numbers, that numbers in and of themselves aren’t the problem, what you do with them can be helpful or harmful but numbers aren’t the problem, they are actually often the solution”. Immediately, I thought of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson and the movie Hidden Figures. I was shocked to learn all about them as an adult and sad that I never did as a girl. Check out the links if you don’t know how amazing they were! By the way, the audio version of the Hidden Figures, book is phenomenal as well! I used this movie as the base for the Retrospective, from topic, to food and everything in between. PLUS, anyone working in software development – not that all Scrum teams are, really should know about these spectacular women and what they did for the field of software development.

Check-In – to help see how everyone was feeling and get into the 60’s vibe we did a quick check-in with the following choices for the team to chose from for how are they feeling right now;

    • Righteous/ Groovy – happy to be here
    • I can dig it – happy to go with the flow, whatever the flow is
    • What’s your bag? – Too preoccupied with your problems to know how you feel about being here.
    • Drag – Not happy to be here.

Learning Objective/ Focus: We looked at the definition of Empiricism; how Scrum uses it, and a commentary on it and used the images as a spring board for discussion on the value of Empiricism and how organizations can/should use it. I then facilitated a discussion on how we use Empiricism, as a team, and organization and what we think of Empiricism as a whole. I shared an unpopular opinion about it as well 🙂


As an Energizer we did a brainstorming session on how our organization could use empiricism effectively or more effectively and use it to add tangible value to the work the team/s are doing, as well as Scrum, and Agile itself. I asked the team some questions like;

    • Are there some things we should measure – why?
    • Are there some things we should not measure – why?
    • Are there some things you are nervous or scared to measure – why? Give your weight as an example, as in many want to lose weight but when you measure it makes you feel guilty more or accountable, whereas if you don’t measure how ‘bad’ it has gotten you can just know you want to lose but not really know how much you need to lose, or how much you already have – it takes the pressure off some.

To gather feedback I knew I wanted to show this clip from Hidden Figures to help the team really understand the value of Empiricism and see that in and of themselves numbers don’t lie and I wanted something to help the team embrace their intrinsic value. Please show this clip to your team prior to explaining the categories for Gathering Feedback.

We then used some elements of the Hidden Figures movie for different categories of Gathering Feedback, like;

  • Go/ No Go – for what are the things we are measuring and what do we hope to learn from them. AND what things should we measure and what do we hope to learn from them?
  • We also used John Glenn, among others, to represent things the team is confident about (numbers, measurements, processes, relationships, tools, etc.) good or bad/ working or not working – the key is how confident/ secure we are in it.

We had a lively discussion as we analyzed the data from the Gathering Feedback section and then created a new Action Item. We also reviewed last sprint’s Action Item as well to see if we needed to adjust it, did it work as intended, did it even get done, etc.

As usual we had an amazing Hidden Figures/ 60’s cocktail party themed snack board and had a great time exploring how empiricism works within Scrum and our organization. This retrospective also led to the team embarking on a courageous experiment with measuring, or rather lack of measuring and they finally let go of estimating how long something would take as well as how complex it is to do. It has been a few months now and things are going well – the team is growing in new ways and isn’t looking back at the days of estimating both but rather sees that more work can get done with less stress when only complexity is measured.

For all the details including facilitator notes click here to request the complete step-by-step Retrospective (scroll to the end) and as usual please share how it went for your team, pics of your food, and any feedback you have on the Retrospective itself!