Using Rory's story cubes for a retrospective

I’d heard of this practice being used for retrospective to invoke a bit of creative thinking and encouraging more contribution from attendees. Has anyone used these in a retrospective and can provide any feedback? I found this article useful during my research.

I plan to use them in our next retrospective. They can be adopted in many ways I believe so I thought I’d use 3 cubes in each area of what went well, what didn’t and carry on doing as we will only have an hour spare for discussion. Depending on how it goes I will perhaps change the structure going forward, whilst still using the cubes of course.

If anyone has any further tips and suggestions I’d welcome them.

Which article are you referring to Darren?

This is going to seem like a question with an obvious answer, but I have follow-up questions based on some possible answers.

What is the function of a retrospective?

Sorry, here is the link:

The main focus areas on the upcoming retrospective are regarding a larger team splitting into two smaller ones and how it has gone after a couple of iterations. This isn’t a direct answer to your question as to what a retrospective is of course.

Hi @brian_seg.

Corinna Baldauf provides an excellent introduction to Retrospectives.

If you’d like ideas for running a retrospective then Corinna’s Retromat is an incredible go-to resource.


I suppose now is a good time to add context to the first question. In my time as a member of Agile teams, we have had two different kinds of retrospectives. The first was where the team got together in the same room, complained about everything which went wrong in the last sprint, praised everything that went right during the same sprint, and created concrete action lists in order to prevent the wrongs from being more wrong and the rights from being less right. Over time, we created measurable improvements in our team’s processes (i.e. velocity went up, estimates became more realistic, fewer issues over petty things).

The other sort of retrospective was when the organizer (never the scrum-master) would make games out of the retrospective, similar to what @simon_tomes linked to in the Retromat. The retrospectives were more fun, but in the end, no action was taken and our processes did not improve.

The cause of the non-improvement was not the “fun” retrospective plan, but rather that in making the retrospective more interesting, the team lost perspective of why we were having the retrospective in the first place. That is, the three questions from Corinna Baldauf, specifically “What will we do differently from now on?”

Which leads me to my context-less advice:
What you do with the cubes is less important in a retrospective than what you do after the cubes are put away.

And my opinion-with-some-context:
The 3-cubes per first two questions is a good idea (providing your team can keep it short, which is why I prefer post-its. The post-its are short by nature), giving more time to discuss the results. The third question, “what will we do differently” can be answered outside of the game.

And what I would do:
It being a new team, I would focus on the team members and use the traditional method of post-its, plusses, minuses and try to focus on the discussion more than the game. Interesting retrospectives can happen later, if there is time or interest.

Thank you Simon and Brian. The article is interesting and one thing (at the very least) I’ll take out of that is agreeing what we will do differently from now on. I suppose I did this to a degree albeit making sure there are actions and follow up dates that I am responsible for following up with the relevant people.

I agree with the first step of your advice Brian and this is what I was aiming for. I wanted the cubes to be a way of getting people to think a little differently but also be encouraged to say something, anything. There was an element of fun but more to make people relax than enjoy themselves as such.

The problem I had experienced with post-it notes is that the same old things were being put on the post-its and were being collectively pigeon-holed into the same type of conversations. The dice were to open things up and, in fairness, the usual conversations would become part of the discussion anyway. However the discussion wasn’t as focused on the usual stuff and allowed more things to be talked or thought about.

All in all I feel it went well and I’m up for trying them again and adding more context over time, so keeping discussions time-boxed (if possible!) is another idea I’ll have for next time.

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