Applying Silent Grouping to Sprint Retrospectives

Applying Silent Grouping to Sprint Retrospectives

[From the Archive: Originally posted at Aug 26, 2011]

I recently tweeted about the advantages of Ken Power’s Silent Grouping technique for Scrum Release Planning sessions. We have found it much preferable (i.e. quicker, more fun) to the more common “Poker Planning” approach.

I have been thinking about using the same principle more widely, and had the opportunity yesterday to apply a variant of Silent Grouping to a Sprint Retrospective.Our teams have recently found the Speedboat Game a welcome improvement to retrospectives, but have been somewhat frustrated by the time it was taking for everyone to contribute their ideas (leaving little time to prioritise issues and discuss possible remediations).

So I suggested we apply Silent Grouping to the contribution, and prioritisation, of issues via the speedboat’s ‘anchors’.

This turnout out swimmingly (sic) and gave us much more time to identify and discuss some Rightshifting (i.e.. improvement) stories – as backlog candidates for the next Sprint.


  • Briefing: Folks were encourage to write (just) one or two (super) stickies identifying issues that they really thought needed positive action and resource to address in the next sprint (i.e. fix or do more of).
  • Round 1 (silent): Each team member in turn adds ONE sticky to the speedboat, until all stickies have been posted.
  • Round 2 (silent): Each team member in turn has the chance to move one group of stickies (i.e. one anchor chain) towards to the bow or stern of the speedboat (we arbitrarily decided that the highest priority anchor chain would be the one nearest the bow). When movement ceased, we proceded to round 3.
  • Round 3 (discussion): The team then discussed the issues in order of priority (top priority first). In this case we devoted about 10-15 minutes to each of the top two issues, clarifying the issue (reaching some consensus on the nature of the problem) and floating possible (general) solutions. Each such issue then became a candidate Rightshifting story for the next Sprint.

Possible improvement for next time: Start with the speedboat and chains from last time, so as to sweep up issues not yet actioned as e.g. Rightshifting stories.Happy to share more detail/ideas on this with anyone interested…

– Bob

Further Reading

Using Silent Grouping for Rapid Story Ranking – Blog post

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