Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dialogue Sheets update (1 of 2)

It has been a while since I’ve written about Dialogue Sheets here - or indeed anywhere else. So here is a quick update and a request for some guinea pigs - I have ideas for new sheets but I need some teams to try them out. (If you want to be a guinea pig for a new sheet skip to the end of this blog.)

The impetus for writing this blog is a new French translation of the T1 Retrospective sheet. I am most grateful to Nicolas Umiastowski for this translation which is now available with the other sheets.

Nicolas has blogged (“Retrospective dialogue sheet in use”) - with photos - about using the sheet this week with a team. The post is well worth reading, everyone was involved and it sounds like there was a lot of energy in the room.

More generally, the sheets continue to be used by teams, lots of downloads still happen from the Dialogue Sheets website. Unfortunately I don’t get much feedback on what happens after the download. If you have download a sheet and have tried them then I’d love to hear how it went and what you think.

Now some statistics.

There have been over 3000 downloads since 1 January 2012 from 94 countries.

(A word of warning here. I’ve made no attempt to cleanse the data. I know it contains some duplicates and some fake e-mail address (e.g. a@b.com) so I assume some of the downloads are fake. Given there are now over 3000 downloads I think (hope?) this doesn’t make a big difference.)

Unsurprisingly the USA leads the world with 20% of downloads, then the UK (15%) after which numbers quickly tail away: Germany (6.5%), France (5.5%), Sweden (4.75%), Norway (3.9%), Australia (3.8%), Netherlands (3.5%), India (2.8%) and Canada (2.75%).

I am sure one of the reasons France scores so highly is Laurent Carbonnaux’s translation of the Sprint sheet. Nicolas’ translation could see France overtake Germany. (I hope we’ll get some more translations and have added some notes on translation to the website.)

The most interesting story I’ve heard this year about Dialogue Sheets is from Sweden - the country where they were originally invented. I am told that there is a childrens’ nursery school (kindergarten) where the teachers hold a fortnightly retrospective using the sprint retrospective sheet! Wonderful.

The statistic I still find most interesting the retrospective frequency question.

I ask all downloaders “How frequently do you hold a retrospective (at the moment) ?”

Nearly 8% of downloaders say they are retrospective facilitators. Excluding these people, 47% of downloaders claim to hold a retrospective regularly (every two weeks or once a month.) But 44% say they never or rarely hold a retrospective.

Now I think it is fair to say we can expect those who hold retrospectives regularly to be more interested in these sheets therefore I expect these figures to be biased towards such people. In other words, if 44% of people interested in retrospective dialogue sheets say they rarely hold a retrospective I expect the true number of software professionals who hold a retrospective rarely to be a lot higher. Sad.

Moving on from numbers, some other changes.

About 18 months ago I introduced an Iteration Planning sheet, this doesn’t have so many downloads (over 200 in total). I’ve also written a description of how to use this sheet (same page). I know my style of planning is slightly different from everyone else’s - heck no two teams are ever the same! (Since I published Xanpan it have wondered if maybe I should rename this sheet as a “Xanpan planning sheet.”)

When I do training sessions I leave the teams copies of both the Sprint Retrospective sheet and the Planning sheet to help get them started. By all reports they help a lot.

The print on demand service is still there, it is little used and I was recently able to reduce the prices there. But if I’m being honest I don’t think the price of a Dialogue Sheet is a bit issue for two reasons. Firstly unless you are buying a lot of sheets, and unless you live in the USA, you will probably find the cost of postage greater than the sheets themselves. Hence I think most teams get these sheets printed locally.

Second, I think teams that have to ask for money have as much trouble getting $50 as $500. So it is the fact that the sheets cost rather than how much they cost which is the problem.

Now to the innovations….

I continue to use the Agile Thinking sheet at the end of Agile training courses to help teams talk about how they will put the training into action. This has proved very very successful. Steve Smith has recently adopted a similar sheet on his continuous delivery courses.

While I’m writing this I should mention some other changes that happened a while back, I retired the T2 sheet - it was not different enough from the T1, T3 and Sprint versions. And I updated the T1 and Sprint sheets - the Sprint sheet now has time boxes on it to aid with keeping the retrospectives to schedule.

One more thing… but that can wait for the next blog post.