It’s always a people problem

This retrospective technique focuses the team on their individual behaviours and asks the teams to adapt how they communicate with each other to become more productive. Because it’s always a people problem right, and it has Lego so it’s fun also!


The Second Law of Consulting: No matter how it looks at first, it’s always a people problem

Gerald Weinberg


Before You Start

Estimated Time: 1hour – 1hour 30 mins
You need quite a bit of Lego or Lego substitute to allow for creative freedom.
Print off a couple of copies of the team behaviours matrix for you, don’t let the team see it.

The Retro

Start with an Intro or energiser of your choice, for example.

It is useful at this point to try and establish a safe environment for the team. To ask the team to agree that nothing leaves this room.

Introduce the exercise by explaining to the team that today we will be looking at how the team work together. To do this we need to get you to work on something similar to your normal work. Get out the Lego!


Iteration 1 – Ask the team to use the Lego to build something which resembles the last iteration, project or time box as a team, not individually. They have 15 minutes. Keep the purpose reasonably vague only that this is to look at how we work together as a team with the objective of working better together and becoming more productive. Optionally you can say to the team if you want to adopt your normal roles e.g Dev, Test, PO etc then that’s fine but if you don’t want to that is fine too.


During this time mark the behaviours each team member is exhibiting on the Team Behavioural Analysis. Stick to facts, if there are specific phrases write them down, try to use the exact words the person used.


Present the results –
Simply present the results, gather the group around and show them your tally chart. Ask the team for their observations. What do you notice about the results? Try to keep your language clean. Try not to draw the group to your perceived observations. Allow the team to come to their own conclusions.

The goal here is to hold up a mirror to the team to allow them to see their behaviours and adapt them. An optional improvement here may be to Video the session to play back to the group.

When you first present the data back the group may be silent for a while as they process the information and look at the chart. Stay with the silence and ask the team for their reflections before summarising what your observations were.

Iteration 2 – Ask the team to again build a Lego model to represent either their last iteration, project or time box. Only one additional rule it can’t be the same thing as the first time.


Again mark another behavioural matrix.


Final Reflections – Ask the team to reflect on what happened and present the latest data.  What changed form the first iteration? How did it feel? Facilitate a discussion on what actions or changes we can take away to help us work better as a team.

I like to finish the group discussion with each team member writing a post-it note personal to them about what behaviour they should change for their and the teams good. You can share this or not.


Facilitator Approach

It is important to adopt a neutral position, to take a coaching stance, for a quick summary of what coaching is seeing my earlier post. 

It’s probably best if possible to have an independent facilitator, someone who is not involved in the day to day delivery pressures of the team. The facilitator marks the team on what and how they are communicating and bias in this could make the session less insightful.

This session could potentially be quite a high conflict session. It is important to remain ok with the conflict and to be able to notice where this conflict is becoming personalised and non-productive. Draw the team back to the purpose of the session, to allow the team to function better.

If it’s possible it may useful to pair on running this retro, it can be quite hard to keep up with conversation and discussion and mark at the same time. It is useful to split the room between facilitators and mark say a max of 3-4 people each.

Where possible split the group into two teams this then introduces a bit of competition and more investment in the activity making it more likely to see the defending and attacking behaviours. Without the competition sometimes you see less of these behaviours as the team isn’t too bothered about the outcome of creating a lego model.


Behavioural matrix doc: Team Behavioural Analysis

The behavioural matrix is a copy of the Barefoot – team coaching model taught by Barefoot Coaching on their team coaching course. I lost the original, oops, a massive thanks to Barefoot for an amazing coaching course.




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