Open the Box Retrospective

Ruth Hadari
Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert
Posted on
Jan 27, 2022
Updated on
May 1, 2023
Table of Content

Open the Box Retrospective” is an effective retrospective activity, that helps teams reflect on their actions by analysis. It is a creative way for team leaders or trainers to prepare participants for their future. Incorporating The Open the Box Retro format in training sessions is a great idea, as it encourages team members to check in with themselves, reassess, and recommit to collective goals.

Activities related to the Open the Box Retrospective help team members become more committed to understanding the mindsets and processes that lead to challenges and success. When a team holds an Open the Box Retrospective activity at the end of a sprint, it offers an opportunity for team members to inspect, brainstorm, and adapt their practices.

What is the Open the Box Retrospective?

A team includes a group of diverse individuals focused on common goals. Each individual adjusts their actions, work preferences and habits to achieve the common goals. However, the effectiveness of a team depends on the capacity of members to work well together. It is also directly related to the ability of the group to use these skills in the best possible way.

Note that turning a group of individuals into a team isn’t an overnight process. It requires effort and time to create strong bonds among co-workers. One way to shorten this time is to provide the team with an appropriate setting to reflect and assess the past actions. 

Open the Box Retrospective is an extension of agile retrospective and is all about offering support to achieve goals. 

The Open the Box Retrospective template is designed to create optimal conditions for not only incremental progress, but also product goals. It further supports the professional and personal growth of each team member. The Open the Box Retrospective format is tremendously advantageous for performing personal retro.

When can Open the Box Retrospective be used?

Open the Box Retrospective considers all activities team members engage in and examines the changes needed to improve overall performance. It is a similar activity to drop, keep, add, and improve (DAKI retrospective) It works best when you want to improve or upgrade the team process.

Most teams in different organizations hold Open the Box Retrospective activities after their sprint review session. The team includes owners, team leaders, and members who participate in the activity. They schedule an Open the Box Retrospective for one hour, including reflection time. The time is usually sufficient for one session.

However, in case a team conflict or disagreement escalates, the retrospective session may take significantly longer.

Who is the Open the Box Retrospective for?

Open the Box Retrospective is a progressive exercise that can benefit every participant in the team, including managers and team leads. It can greatly promote remote work settings. Using video conferencing, team members can reflect on what works well for them and what can be redirected to determine how they can improve. It allows each team member to look at the process they practice or the tasks they perform and decide what they need to add, keep, or drop.

Inside the retrospective box there are individual team processes, behaviors, and activities. They open the box and decide on the items or processes they should add, remove or recycle.

It is a classic way to duplicate the successes, identify the beneficial practices and learn from failures.

What Makes the Open the Box Retrospective Effective

An Open the Box Retrospective template can serve as a core piece of an agile approach. The activity is effective because it helps in the following ways:

Helps Teams Identify Inefficiencies in the Process 

Your process is not and should not be set in stone. You can improve and refine it to become a better version of yourself. An Open the Box Retrospective format offers an opportunity for team members to identify what went well and what needs to change. Having a regular Open the Box Retrospective session allows teams to prioritize ongoing improvement.

Helps Teams Become More Effective in the Future

Open the Box Retrospectives focus on one key goal. They help the team become more vigilant and effective. The team uses the insights gained during the session to identify errors and action items for implementation.

Allows Teams to be Accountable

Sticking to points on previous processes and behaviors allows team members to take responsibility for their actions. The ownership level is crucial when it comes to assuming accountability: Approximately 9 out of 10 workers think accountability is one of the top needs in an organization.

Completing an Open the Box Retrospective gives teams a realistic assessment of how they have been working the entire year. They can also learn what they can actively do to improve their productivity and their relationships with co-workers, passion for work, and vitality.

How to Run the Open the Box Retrospective

Here is how you can run an Open the Box Retrospective activity:

  • Open with any popular quote emphasizing the importance of “adapting or evolving” personalities and practices for improvement. If you’re holding a virtual conference, bring a box and draw everyone’s attention to it.
  • Tell the team members that the box contains all the activities they have performed. Ask them to open the box.
  • Use a whiteboard to draw a box and divide it into three areas. You’ll need to explain all three areas to your team members - which activities, processes, and behaviors can be added, removed, or recycled.
  • Allow team members to work on their retro box and jot down the points for each area. You can then take feedback individually or hold a collective discussion with the teammates.

You can ask the team to discuss items categorically. An ideal way to conduct a valuable session is to get the team to list the tasks they perform and vote on the most important ones to talk about. Categorize them into added, recycled, and removed sections.

About the author

Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert

Highly experienced in leading multi-organizational teams, groups, in-shore as well as off-shore. The go-to person who is able to simplify the complex. An agile advocate, experienced in all common methodologies. Responsible for the entire software development lifecycle process from development, QA, DevOps, Automation to delivery including overall planning, direction, coordination, execution, implementation, control and completion. Drives execution, and communicates on status, risks, metrics, risk-mitigation and processes across R&D.

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