Thursday, 29 October 2009

Gathering worthwhile feedback

Tobias Mayer has got me (and I guess several other) thinking about the common feedback process used by trainers. While I think that there's much to learn from the general purpose form handed out at the end of a training, clearly doing it only at the end of a training session means you cant use it for improving during a lengthy course.

Therefore I use two different techniques for gathering feedback during a course

Course Retrospect

this is actually quite simple and effective technique, towards the end of the second day. usually after I cover the sprint retrospect meeting. I conduct a short "retrospect" meeting with the aim of improving the actual course. My current favorite way is borrowed from Alistair Cockburn and we try to list out (together in an open discussion) the things which are:

  1. Going good for us so far,
  2. causing issues and difficulties,
  3. and things that we want to try to do different on the next day.

That way not only do I gather feedback that I can use to improve on, we also get the chance to practice and witness the power of Sprint retrospect meetings.

Guided Questions

The second technique I'm using was inspired by Roy Osherove, and its a little more subtle. The basic idea is to ask a few (usually 2) open ended questions regarding the passing day. For a concrete example read these 3 posts: day 1, day 2 & day 3.

And this works really well. First, asking these question at the end of the day makes people go over and reflect on what they have learnt during the day. It take 5-10 minutes in which I see them going through the written material trying to fish out an answer. Just for doing this I think its a great practice. Second, I really learn a lot about how they grasp Scrum, what are the main difficulties, what is seen as beneficial, what they think will be easy and so on. And last in most cases the answers show me how well I did as a trainer. For example on the first day I got an answer saying that "Documentation is not needed." That was not the idea I was trying to convey (In fact I clearly specified that "its not that documents are not needed...." at least twice) therefore I need to improve on that (clearing that point again on the following day).

Both technique are simple, quite fast (takes between 5-15 minutes) and results in good feedback. combining them with the general purpose feedback form really works great for me so far.


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