The High Performance Tree Retrospective

Alex Vernik
Alex Vernik
Engineering Ops Specialist
Posted on
Dec 27, 2021
Updated on
May 1, 2023
Table of Content

Do you know what the High Performance Tree Retrospective is? No? Keep reading then! In this post, we are going to talk about the High Performance Retrospective Format, who it is made for, when it can be used, and more.

Agile frameworks like Scrum are designed to be simple, easy to deploy, and beneficial for your entire dev team. Scrum practices, if well guided, are fairly easy to implement. However, if you’re not careful, it won't take long for the aging, agile ritual framework to make the team feel like they’re stuck inside a gigantic hamster wheel.

In addition to the product-based results that teams are expected to deliver, they need to strive for something else as well – something that will turn any hamster wheel feelings into more Man Of La Mancha-esque feelings. Instead of always seeing the same scenario on the hamster wheel, the team needs to identify signs along their path that indicate progress towards a larger, more rewarding goal than a simple sprint completion. In the case of this retrospective format, this “something” is high performance: the daily act of being united, aiming for the best team it can be.

In this high-technology age, autonomy, excellence, and a sense of purpose become key motivators. Having high performance as the main objective and providing tools for the team to achieve these powerful results will help everyone on your team contribute towards the common goal. The company will experience better results, and the team will become capable of resolving any issue. The team, and its individuals, add more autonomy, excellence, and purpose to their lives. In return, everyone tastes the fruits of high performance.

If team leaders show their confidence in their teammates, setting an expectation that their subordinates are capable of doing any challenging task, these team members will be motivated to prove this opinion right, and will work harder to improve. Trust is the basis for the team to go through moments of joy and disillusionment without letting those emotions affect their progress towards completion. Having such an expectation means believing that the team is capable of surmounting any obstacle in their path, and will work to raise morale, motivation, and performance across the team. 

What is the High Performance Tree Retrospective?

The High Performance Tree Retrospective is a concept that we reflect on in order to achieve our optimal performance. The concept was created by Agile Coach Lyssa Adkins when she was under pressure to make the team deliver more value than it normally did. 

An interesting pattern is visible in view of the consolidated excellence of these teams, this being the fact that each team sought high performance by their own means, and it was not useful for Ms. Adkins to create a recipe for them to follow.  This is the core concept of high performance tree respective format: the effort undertaken by teammates to drive High Performance across tasks. 

Who is the High Performance Tree Retrospective for?

The High performance tree retrospective format is for every individual who works in a team but it primarily targets the Scrum Masters. This retrospective template serves as a powerful tool for them to provide their team with a visual representation of what’s expected from them. On the other hand, the team members get to see what they are expected to do and how. 

When Can High Performance Tree Retrospective be used?

The High Performance Tree Retrospective can be used either as a full Retro, or as a warm-up at the end of a completed Iteration/Sprint. It's always best to give feedback as soon as possible while the memories and notes are still vivid and clear. Ideally, the constructive pointers and new strategies discussed during this activity will be put to use shortly afterward in a new project. 

What makes the High Performance Tree Retrospective effective?

The High Performance Tree Retrospective provides all team members a vision of where they want to go and how they want to do it. Using the tree analogy, as a reference, the team can analyze how their “tree” is, and how they are caring for it. They can also see what nutrients they are providing to it so that they can detect how strong its roots are (values), what behaviors are they showing (foliage) and what results are they getting (fruits) as a team.

How to Execute the High Performance Tree Retrospective?

Now that you understand what a high performance tree retrospective is, it is time to use this retro format for your own benefit. To use this high-performance tree retrospective template, start by drawing a tree with your team. Add the 5 scrum values to the roots including:

  • Commitment: Be willing to commit to a goal. Scrum gives the team all the authority it needs to honor its commitments.
  • Focus: Do your job. Focus all your effort and skill on doing the work you've committed to. Don't worry about anything else.
  • Visibility: Scrum makes everything about the project visible to everyone.
  • Respect: Each individual has their own history and experiences. It is important to respect the different types of people that make up the team.
  • Courage: Have the courage to commit, act, be visible and demand respect.

As the design progresses, a vision should be illustrated for the team. If the roots are strong, they feed the tree, which grows strong. Leaves sprout and receive more and more sunlight. When they receive light, the leaves, on the other hand, feed the tree. The entire tree grows strong and vivid. The tree then becomes an inviting place. The team notices that some things have sprung up between them – the characteristics of high collaboration and, consequently, high performance:

  • They are self-organizing rather than controlled.
  • They have the power to make decisions.
  • They believe that, as a team, they can solve any problem.
  • They are committed to the team's success, rather than their individual success at all costs.
  • The team owns its commitments and decisions.
  • Trust, rather than fear or anger, motivates the team.
  • They are oriented towards consensus, between divergence and convergence.
  • They live in a world of constant constructive criticism.

These characteristics define the leaves of the tree. If the roots are strong and the leaves are light enough, the tree will bear fruit. These fruits are the fruits of high performance.

The first fruits to notice are: you get high-quality results faster and achieve business values more quickly. Then as the roots (values) and leaves (high performance) continue to grow, the team can even taste the fruit of spectacular results – the kind that makes companies surpass their competitors and the kind that the Agile Movement sets out to create. Through these fruits, two other fruits appear, i.e., a team that can do anything and a team that offers space for the team and individual growth. These two fruits are responsible for the tree's rejuvenation and are always sprouting. They maintain sustainable growth.

High Performance Tree Retrospectives with GoRetro

Another good way to execute this high performance tree retrospective format is to head over to the GoRetro dashboard and create your own custom tree now. Just put together a custom, 5-column interactive retrospective board in GoRetro and customize it to fit the parameters of your High Performance Tree retrospective. 

The design is a silent reminder that high performance and high expectations are normal. It’s there for the team to reflect on tense times, and to help maintain the power of the metaphor and guide the team on its journey towards high performance.

Enjoy this retrospective idea  and as many more as you can come up with for free on the GoRetro website, today! 

About the author

Alex Vernik
Engineering Ops Specialist

Engineering leader, passionate about coding products and value creation. Vast experience with managing R&D teams at various scales. Embracing innovation and transformation for constant improvement.

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