Team Awards Retrospective

Everything is awesome, everything is cool when you are part of a team!

The LEGO Movie

Even if a lot of people would genuinely like to think that way, not everything is awesome when you are part of a team. The great thing about this is that it leaves room for improvements which a regular retrospective will help you find as a team.

In 2015, the LEGO Movie song: “Everything is Awesome” was nominated for the best song at the Academy Awards (The Oscars). The Directors of the movie ordered the artist Nathan Sawaya to create 20 Lego statuettes to be given while the song was played.

During the winter break, my (young adult) kids and I assemble quite a lot of Legos with the younger ones. That reminded me of the happy face of people during the 2015 Oscar ceremony when they were given the statuettes and of one retrospective format created by my amazing wife Isabel.

I decided that the next retrospective for my team will be a Team Awards Retrospective and that I will give away two Oscar statuettes made of LEGO! I ordered the bricks online and built the statuettes thanks to that article.

How did it work?

We intended to do a quick retrospective at the beginning of our face to face meeting to examine the last period. Our team is widely distributed, so when we have some time with each other, we invest that time for high-bandwidth collaboration.

I asked the team members to consider the last period as a movie.

Using two sticky notes, they had to nominate for two awards:

  • The best failure for the team
  • The best contribution from a team member

All the team members gathered around the whiteboard to display their sticky notes in the dedicated boxes for each award.

Starting with the team award, they took the time to read what was on the notes and then asked clarifying questions. The conversation was focused on what we learned from those failures. I then proposed a silent reordering of the notes as a way of voting. The session was not really silent, but still, they quickly agreed on what should be at the top.

The conversation went on what we learned and what we should adjust in the way our teamwork. The award went to the new team member who proposed the failure.

We moved then to the team member award with the same approach, and in the end, the award went to the other new team member whose mission is to lead our actions to get to more diverse and inclusive teams. The discussion focused on how to best support the mission.

The retrospective was fun and short. We focused on consolidating our culture. And we welcomed our new team members with awards!

They were maybe not as expressive as Oprah but I feel that they were really happy 🙂


Learning from the neuroscience of trust

Trust is the foundation of the human relationship and the foundation of an effective team. I recently shared how our behavior will create or destroy trust in the article The Evolution of Trust, and more about trust as the foundation of a team in the article The Five Dysfunction of a Team.

Paul J. Zak, the author of Trust Factor, shares in The Neuroscience of Trust the 8 management behaviors that will foster trust.

We could use the 8 behaviors as discussion points with teams to improve our way of working. The question could be, How are we doing on:

  1. Recognize excellence: personal public recognition from peers that occurs immediately after the fact, tangible and unexpected has the largest effect on trust.
  2. Induce “challenge stress”: stretch goal, but a still achievable goal, assigned to a team will intensify focus and strengthen the social connection.
  3. Give people discretion in how they do their work: autonomy and self-organization, is another important contributor, being trusted creates trust.
  4. Enable job crafting: trusting people to choose what they will work will ensure focus and motivation. The author gives the example of Valve, the gaming software company, I recommend their employee handbook to have an idea of how they work, and inspire the conversation with your teams.
  5. Share information broadly: uncertainty and stress undermine teamwork, openness, transparency and daily synchronization are the proposed antidotes.
  6. Intentionally build relationships: encourage people to care for each other will make them happier and more productive.
  7. Facilitate whole-person growth: meet frequently and give constant feedback on personal and professional growth.
  8. Show vulnerability: asking for help, and acknowledging what we don’t know, help to build credibility.

Could this discussion be the Retrospective on Trust for your team?


Fight Club Retrospective

You probably remember the first 2 rules of Fight Club, right?

Let’s review the rules:

“Welcome to Fight Club. The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: you DO NOT talk about Fight Club! Third rule of Fight Club: if someone yells “stop!”, goes limp, or taps out, the fight is over. Fourth rule: only two guys to a fight. Fifth rule: one fight at a time, fellas. Sixth rule: the fights are bare knuckle. No shirt, no shoes, no weapons. Seventh rule: fights will go on as long as they have to. And the eighth and final rule: if this is your first time at Fight Club, you have to fight.”

― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Let’s now define what a retrospective is. A retrospective, is a specific session, in which a team reflects on what happened during the previous iteration. This reflection will lead the team to decisions, either to reinforce positive behaviors, or to invest time to improve what is preventing the members to achieve their goals.

There’s a lot of ways to facilitate retrospective, you could go here and there to find out more.

Isabel, my amazing wife, had the idea to create an “all-in-one” retrospective plan based on the Fight Club rules. You will learn more about this plan in her book to come.

In the meantime, I would like to present how I used the idea to foster productive conversations in a team that is scared of conflict. This is the second of the 5 dysfunctions of a team.

Maybe you think that using fight is too violent in the workplace. And at the same time, what happens in us, during a discussion could be felt as fight.


The meeting will start with the explanation of the goal, and how the Fight Club rules are transposed in our work environment.

The first 2 rules are useful, because, as stated by a manager in the team, the children don’t want to hear that “mum and dad are fighting”. I could argue that this statement in itself says a lot about the current state of trust in the organization, and that in an effective organization, the manager will probably not consider himself or herself as the parent of the team members. If we put that aside, the first 2 rules are useful to create a secured space in which conflicts are allowed, and nobody knows that we could have conflict in this team.

So we are saying there, that during this specific meeting, we will not seek artificial harmony, we will accept to start the conversation on topics that we are not in agreement (yet).

Third rule, we need to be able to stop the conversation. Fourth rule, only two people involved, everybody fighting at the same time against one is not a smart idea, right?

Fifth rule: one fight at a time. Let’s not mix all the topics in the conversation.

Sixth rule: no protection and no weapon. Is referring to your boss a weapon? Let’s discuss what it means for the team.

Seventh rule: … as long as they have too… We need the conversation to end with a decision.

Eighth rule: first timer have to speak up. In fact, every team member will have to bring a topic on the table.


What is missing there, is a way to bring topics that is non judgmental. So we could have a productive conversation. Isabel proposed to use Non Violent Communication, to encourage people to observe, express their feelings (and not their thoughts), to express their unsatisfied needs, and their requests.


This explanation of the 4 part of the NVC process could help 🙂



Happiness level during your last quarter

Two weeks ago, I facilitate a quarterly meeting of a distributed team. They met in person only once a quarter during this meeting.

I chose to start the meeting with an exercise to share their feeling about the last quarter. I asked:

Can you draw a line representing your happiness level during this period?

The levels are represented by weather symbols that make them more understandable for the people of this team who are coming from several countries in the world. They almost all chose to comment the drawing when they were drawing the line, and when they were not, I asked them to comment, and after that I thank each of them for sharing.

I was amazed by the amount of information shared during this simple exercise about their general feeling about their work, what make them tick from holidays to specific achievements, learnings, relation established with other people and so on…

I feel also that the state of mind of the whole group was best prepared to review the results achieved during the last quarter.

On the second day, in front of the drawing, I start by thanking them again to have shared their feelings about the last quarter and I asked them to use one or two post-it notes to answer this second question:

What are you proud of?

Once again, a good question to understand what’s important for the individuals in the team, and a good way to set the stage for the day.

If you try this, I would appreciate your feedbacks.


Spotify engineering culture

Henrik Kniberg shared two 15 minutes videos explaining Spotify Culture.

First part covers mainly teams organization.

Second part covers failure and learning culture, that fosters innovation.

30 minutes to study the way of working of a company that live with agile values and principles since the beginning (for the pleasure of their 30+ millions of users, yes, I am one of them…).

PS: I had the chance to met another Crisp coach working with Spotify a few month ago, see this article: Agile est agile à grande échelle (in french).