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What is the Futurespective Prime Directive?

By now, we all know the importance of retrospectives and the value they can bring to your team, your product, and even your business as a whole.

But retrospective learning only deals with things that have already happened. Now, that’s great for learning from your mistakes, but it still allows those mistakes to happen. The question is, how do you prepare for and learn from mistakes that haven’t happened yet?

This is where futurespectives come in.

Futurespectives are essentially retrospectives, but instead of looking back, they look ahead to identify potential issues and solidify our goals for the upcoming sprint or project. Futurespectives usually look at a broader range of things as you start to dive into a project rather than examining something that has already happened.

The Futurespective Prime Directive

Everything that happens during a futurespective is bound by the Futurespective Prime Directive described by scrum and agile experts Paulo Caroli and TC Caetano.

‘Hope and confidence come from proper involvement and a willingness to predict the unpredictable. We will fully engage on this opportunity to unite around an inclusive vision, and join hands in constructing a shared future.’

– Paulo Caroli and TC Caetano


Simply put, the prime directive states that a team must work together and try to plan for every possible scenario to ensure they’re not caught short if something unexpected occurs.

Examples of futurespective techniques:

Like retrospectives, there are a bunch of different ways to run a futurespective. So, if you’re aching to try it out, here are a few techniques to get you started.

The Catapult

The catapult takes a simple metaphor and turns it into a fun way to overcome obstacles. This activity allows the team to look at a challenge from three perspectives: the person facing the challenge, the challenge itself, and everyone’s organization to overcome the challenge.

How to run the catapult

  • Draw a catapult with a person flying and a mountain ahead.
  • Ask each team member to write notes for each of the three areas:
    • The catapult: What you can do to overcome the challenge.
    • The person flying: Attributes of the person/team facing the challenge.
    • The mountain: The challenge itself.

After mapping out your catapult, discuss notes as a team and try to make links between all three areas.

Success Criteria

The Success Criteria for a team should be brief and concise, with clearly defined intentions, outcomes, and conditions that can validate the results.

How to run the Success Criteria technique

  • Create a board with the following columns:

    • Intention: The idea that you intend to carry out.
    • Target: What the team hopes to achieve with the idea.
    • Successful if: the indicators that prove you have met the criteria.
    • Failure if: the indicators that demonstrate you have not met the criteria.
  • Write down the intention.
  • Ask the team to write down the key target outcomes towards the intention on individual sticky notes.
  • Place notes on the target column.
  • Organize target outcomes by grouping similar notes, removing notes with little value, etc.
  • Ask participants to write and place notes for each target outcome for the success and failure indication condition. Place these on the same line as the target outcome.
  • Have a group conversation about the notes on each line.

Clear success criteria for a team lead to more focused actions. This activity helps the team get on the same page regarding success criteria and track its progress.

Three-horizon

Three-horizon (also called “3Hs”) aims to help a team articulate how to manage current performance while maximizing future growth opportunities. McKinsey’s three-horizon structure provides a vocabulary for the present moment (horizon 1), a near-future (horizon 2), and a more distant future (horizon 3).

This activity is beneficial for teams going through strategic conversations. Many teams have difficulty distinguishing between urgent and just important actions, especially regarding future options.

How to run the three-horizon technique:

  • Explain the horizons and the intent of the activity.
  • Describe the horizons:
    • What are the things we are/should currently be investing in?
    • What are the things we are/should be investing in for the near future?
    • What are the things we are/should be investing in for the distant future?
  • As a team, define what you consider the near future and what you consider the distant future.

Ask your participants to write down their notes for each of the horizons. Once they’ve done this, take a look at how notes line up across the team and group any like notes together. This activity should help you get a sense of what needs to happen and when.

SCOR – Strengths, Challenges, Opportunities, Risks

SCOR helps the team better plan for the future based on the perceived strengths, challenges and opportunities, and risks ahead of them. It is a good activity for visualizing and aligning critical strategic topics.

How to run SCOR:

  • On your board, create four quadrants and label them “Strengths,” “Challenges,” “Opportunities,” and “Risks.”
  • Introduce the first two areas:
    • Strengths: What are the positive attributes?
    • Challenges: What are the challenges or threats?
  • Ask the team to write down their thoughts on these two areas.
  • Read each card to the group out loud, but save the discussion for later.
  • Introduce the other two areas:
    • Opportunities: given the strengths, what can we capitalize on and take as a lead to be successful?
    • Risks: with those challenges, what are the risks ahead of us, and how to mitigate them?
  • Give the team time to write notes for those two areas.

Once everyone has had a chance to write their second round of notes, read the new cards out loud. Now’s your chance to discuss everything that you’ve learned in the session.

Strategy DHM

The Strategy DHM technique helps the team frame their strategy by asking three questions:

  • How will the product delight customers?
  • What will make the product hard to copy?
  • What are the business model experiments required to build a profitable business?

The answers to these questions will provide high-level hypotheses for your product strategy.

How to run Strategy DHM:

  • Split your board into three columns that represent each question
  • Ask people to add their thoughts and ideas to each column notes
  • Cluster similar cards
  • Discuss the cards as a group
  • Plan the next steps

Strategy DHM essentially runs like any other brainstorming session, so if you need a little help, check out our free online brainstorming tool and guide!

These are just some of the techniques to use in your futurespectives. The main goal when it comes to futurespectives is preparation. Give your team the best possible result by anticipating potential problems before they happen.

Here at EasyRetro, we’ve got all the tools you need. If you’re ready to start looking forward, be sure to take a look at our futurespective template!

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