I came across the 35 technique for gathering input from a team on Lyssa Adkins blog, and have been wanting to try it for a while, and I ran it yesterday, with some changes, which worked brilliantly.

Purpose:

Used to quickly gather input or feedback from a team, found it especially useful for team with communication issues

Materials:

Flip Chart(pre-written agenda, and timing) , Markers (ideally the same ones for each person, same color), Cards, Stopwatch

Step 1:

Introduction

One word, (another one from Lyssa’s book), I asked each person around the table to say one word to reflect how they are feeling, it also breaks the ice, ensures everyone speaks, which aids participation.

Overview, I informed the team that there would be 2 agendas to choose from, and they would get to choose, initially they wanted to stay rooted to their seats, but I find getting people up out of their chairs and active really increases the participation.

Create 2 topics, one with a positive twist, one with a negative twist, this will help you as the facilitator understand the “mood” of the team. I used

1. What will this great team look like in 1 year & What are the steps we can take to get there

2. What are the current issues ? & what steps can we take to fix them

It was a really interesting data point to see the split between each of the options..to protect the innocent, I wont go into details.

Step 2:

Timings

With the agenda chosen, review the timings for the session. We had 1 hour, 1 agenda, 2 topics, broken down as follows:

Introduction – One word , Agenda Choice – 5 min

Session 1 – Introduction – 5 minutes

Session 1 – 5*2 min + 10min

Session 2 – Introduction – 5 minutes

Session 2 – 5*2 min + 10min

Wrap up – 5 min

Step 3:

Session 1 introduction and execution

A) The name of the game is 35, each person gets a card, and a pen.

B) You have chosen Agenda 2, there will be 2 sessions, following the same format : what are the current issues (session 1) , What steps can we take to fix them (session 2)

C) Write the most important issue for you on your card

D) Check in when they are all finished

E) Turn the cards face down and swap all the cards

F) Take a card, and find a partner (we had uneven numbers to there was one triad)

G) You now have 2 minutes to discuss the 2 cards, and you have to divide up 7 points between the cards (write the points on the back), no half points. (we had to adjust the 3 person group to 11 points)

H) after the 2 minutes, change the person your talking to and repeat 4 more times.

I) Each card has now been scored out of 35 (7 points * 5 times), please total them up, and write on the total on the face of the card.

J) At the end, the facilitator counts down from 35, participants raise their hand when their card matches the number the facilitator is saying.

K) Key learnings and improvments

L) Second session

Observations:

I wanted the team to experience some of their issues, not jsut write about them, so this approach is different from Lyssa’s approach. I did not give the teams the opportunity to explain the cards at step D. This enabled the team to experience a really valuable lesson, that we make so many assumptions on what things mean (get clarity from your product owner before you commit). It was round 3 , before any one stopped to ask a question to clarify what was on the card (its important that everyone stops when a question is asked, so they all learn, but that so that it also causes disruption). You will most like find the first question opens the floodgates. The disruptions also caused a over run in the timing (we missed the sprint goal) ,

There was also a lot of confusion around the change over (step H) , which led to wasted time, people were swaping the cards and also the person they were talking to, a great example of teams filling in for mis-understandings.

At the end of the first session, we had a quick inspect and adapt cycle, where I asked how they could improve on the efficeny of the session. Straight away they agreed to quickly explain each of the cards, and to remove any duplicates. I riased the point that in the explaination, what was a potenial duplicate by the words, may not be by its meaning. They also agreed to move just the person and not swap the cards each time. On this point, after round 3 again, one participant was concerened that he was juding his own card too much so raise the question could we swap, in asking the question, most of the team agreed, and they adjusted the process (mid-sprint). For the second session, I also informed them I would not be making any input apart from time keeping, 1 minute increments. This was a good learning opportunity for self organisation.

I found that with the tweaks, that we gathered some great insights to the teams concerns and ideas for resolution, but also for the team to really experience some of the issues that they were suffering from.

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