Your Agile Journey with the Backpacking Retrospective Exercise

Becoming agile is a journey of continuous improvement. To travel it well, you need to think about where you want to go and how to travel it. The backpacking retrospective exercise can be used by teams and organizations to visualize their path to agility and decide what they will take along on their journey.

How to do the backpacking exercise

Start this exercise by making a drawing that visualizes your destination, several paths leading towards it, and a backpacker. The destination is your main reason to travel the agile journey, for example to become faster, more innovative, deliver better products, etc.

Brainstorm with sticky notes to think about what you will take along on your journey that will help you to travel. You may have some things already and have to acquire others. Examples are support from your management, skills, knowledge, etc. Keep the list small, don’t carry too much!

Think about things that you want to leave behind, that are hindering you to become agile. E.g. the way that work is being done now, or anything that is blocking you. Say goodbye to them!

Finally take some time to think about possible risks and opportunities on your way to agility. Which would they be, and what should you pack to potentially deal with them.

When you have collected and discussed all the sticky notes, decide upon the vital few actions that are needed now to prepare and start your agile journey.

A retrospective with the backpacking exercise

Lisa Crispin, Tester at Pivotal Labs and co-author of More Agile Testing, reached out to me to do the backpacking retrospective exercise with her team. Here are her experiences:

At the time, we were trying to get our new help center released. It had dragged on for well over a year. We were doing our part, but we couldn’t get other necessary things that we couldn’t do ourselves prioritized. So we made the destination the release of the help center, and put things in our backpack, and took them out again til we had the minimum. I can’t remember all the details, but it gave us traction, and we made the help center release happen.

I love it when people use my exercises in their respective, always interested to hear their experiences and share them with my readers. Thank you Lisa!

Time to pack your bags

Maybe you can try out the backpacking exercise in your next retrospective to spice up your retrospective, bring more life into your agile journey and start traveling. Let me know if you need more information or when you have questions, it will be my pleasure to help you.

Ben Linders

I help organizations with effective software development and management practices. Active member of several networks on Agile, Lean and Quality, and a frequent speaker and writer.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.