What is the Pathfinder Retrospective?
Similar to the Lean Coffee approach, the pathfinder retrospective opens up the floor for teams to make a list of whatever topics they would like to discuss then explore ways to change or new experiments to try.
The goal of this open space approach is to allow them to bring up any topic or area that they would like to discuss without a premeditated agenda or leading set of questions. Unlike the Lean Coffee approach which has a more Kanban style, the focus shifts to things that they could possibly change, or new activities that can be pursued and measured. There is a “solutions focus” as opposed to task management and therefore more innovative thinking is required.
An example of the Pathfinder approach might be that the team is struggling with managing communication flow between the product development team and the quality assurance team. One of the changes might be to update the operating or workflow process, and something that they might like to try is introduce a new real time approval platform.
This is a good activity to perform with a remote or distributed team when there is a need to explore a breadth of topics, rather than a specific theme or focus.
Try this as a more open approach with new teams or where you might not know exactly where you want to start or focus the retrospective.
Pathfinder Retrospective Format
Give the team time and space to list down a range of topics that they would like to talk about the most. Let them know that this can be anything that is on their mind and create a safe space by building in team agreements and social contracts whether you introduce Chatham House rules or having a shared understanding to create psychological safety.
Individual brainstorming might be best so that they feel like they can add anything, and you can also make the brainstorming process during the remote team meeting anonymous.
These are the aspects that they believe that they would like to take forward. What are the things they can control, influence or impact? This might be personally, within the team, or just outside their circle.
A good thing to remember here is to try and focus the discussion on aspects that the team can actually control. Going beyond this can be a negative cycle as the team gets frustrated by focussing on aspects that they cannot change or influence. Changes could be anything from systems, technology, processes through to communication skills, technical experiments and actions to take forward.
Based on the suggested changes, the team then agrees and lists the aspects that they would most like to try.
Using independent voting in TeamRetro means you can check that you have buy-in and input from the team. These can be further refined and proposed as action items or agreements in TeamRetro.