Friday, 4 October 2019

Hero's Journey Board

How to Run an Agile Harry Potter Retrospective

For anyone working in Agile teams, retrospectives should be, after stand-ups, the ceremony one should be most familiar with. And if you’re running them regularly, you know that they can get quite monotonous. My team has been using the “What went well”, “What didn’t go well”, “What can be improved” and the Lean Coffee formats for many months and we figured we could do with a bit of a change. To remedy this, and since I am a massive fan, I decided to volunteer and facilitate a Harry Potter retrospective.

Note: This article assumes you are familiar with running Agile Retrospectives. If you’d rather find out more about what a retrospective is and how to facilitate a retrospective I recommend the 5 Things You Need To Know To Facilitate A Retrospective article.

Many thanks to Minno and other ThoughtWorkers for helping shape some of these activities.

Harry Potter Retrospective Overview

To make things easier and quicker, I recommend having most of the materials ready ahead of time. To set the wizardly world mood, you can choose to put music on (keep in mind that not everyone may be familiar with HP world, so I recommend Hedwig’s Theme). As for the energiser you will need a room with some empty space. See all requirements and materials at the bottom.

1. As participants arrive into the room, hand them the index cards on which you already sticked the smaller Happiness, Safety and One Magical Word stickies (marked for easier identification).

2. Start the retrospective by reading the Prime Directive to ensure everyone is familiar with it. Because we are an established team and very familiar with the original one, I took the liberty to modify it and make it more “magical”.
Duration: ~1 minute

3. Run the Happiness and Safety checks as well as the One (Magical) Word activity to get a sense of everyone’s mood and understand the safety levels of the participants. I prefer to run the Happiness check with the same scale as the Safety check (1 being the worst, 5 being the best). Consider the implications of someone not feeling safe in the room and that you might have to give up on the theme retro and instead focus on Creating Safety.
Tip: Explain and use the One Magical Word activity to make your team aware of each other’s feelings or attitudes. I asked mine to use words from the world of Harry Potter to make it funnier.
Duration: ~3 minutes

4. Using the Sorting Hat activity, assign everyone into one of the 4 Hogwarts houses. Next, ask participants to form a circle by ensuring they don’t sit next to someone who is in the same house as theirs.
Duration: 1 minute

5. Explain the Magical Duel energiser rules and do a trial run. I recommend starting with the first three rules to get everyone accustomed and then introducing the final rule. Finally, run the energiser for good and declare the winning person’s house the winning house!
Tip: Take your time explaining the rules and ensure everyone understands them.
Duration: ~10 minutes

Index cards for the Hero's Journey activity
Hero’s Journey Index Cards including the Messenger addition

6. Explain and run the modified Hero’s Journey activity. Ask everyone to get involved and contribute with post-it notes, then group them by topics. Run a filtering activity like dot voting to decide the priority of topics to be discussed.
Tip: To keep this activity in line with the theme, ask everyone to swap dots for a lightning symbol ⚡, but if you think this is confusing stick with dot voting or tallies).
Duration: 10-15 minutes

7. Discuss the top most voted topics, given the time you’ve got left. Aim to discuss at least 3 topics and take actions if appropriate or needed.
Duration: 15-20 minutes

8. Finally, explain the Owl to Self check-out activity by asking participants to write down a thought, an action or something they want to keep an eye on for the next iteration or until the next retro.

At the end of the retro, thank everyone for participation. Optionally, I recommend to invite the participants to provide you with feedback on how they found the retrospective! This should help you understand if a similar themed retro can be repeated.

Materials and Props for the Harry Potter retrospective

Like any retrospective you’ll need lots of post-it notes and sharpies or pens for people to write on. However, since this is a themed retro, I decided to spice things up a bit so I am including the materials and props list I went with when I ran this activity.

Hogwarts emblems, modified prime directive and other materials for the Harry Potter retrospective
Some of my props for index cards and the “Owl To Self” checkout activity


  • Same colour post-it notes and sharpies (or pens)
  • 4 Index cards with Hero’s Journey drawings (or just draw/print them)
  • An open space room that is big enough for the whole team


  • Additional “Messenger” Index card or drawing for the modified Hero’s Journey Activity
  • Differently coloured post-its for Happiness, Safety and One Magical Word activities
  • Enough Owl To Self index cards for all participants (or more post-it notes)
  • Enough House Emblems for all participants (for Sorting Hat activity)
Chocolate Frogs and Jelly Beans snack for a Harry Potter retrospective
Freddos Chocolate Frogs and Jelly Beans (bought from Sainsburys)

Snacks and Props (really optional)

  • Jelly Beans
  • Chocolate Frogs
  • A pointy hat (however any hat will do)
  • Wood sticks as wands (please consider Health and Safety, we only had them for decor)
  • Brooms
  • Harry Potter Themed Music


Harry Potter Retrospective Prime Directive

“Regardless of what dark magic, trolls or dementors we discover on our way, we understand and solemnly swear that every wizard and witch in this room has practiced the best magic they could, given what spells they knew, what wands, caffeinated potions or cauldrons they had available at the time, given the hard magical duel they had at hand.”

Adapted from the Agile Prime Directive to fit the Harry Potter Theme

Sorting Hat

You will need to prepare (or print) some small emblems with the four Hogwarts houses. Try to evenly split the number of stickies to be enough for the number of participants you anticipate. Put them all in a hat and then ask everyone to randomly pick one.

For the reminder of the retro, they will be representing that Hogwarts house. For reference, the four Hogwarts houses are Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin.

Alternative: Ask participants to repeatedly count from 1 to 4 until everyone has a number and establish which number belongs to which house (e.g. 1 – Gryffindor, 2 – Ravenclaw, 3 – Hufflepuff, 4 – Slytherin).

Magical Duel

Please consider your audience’s ability to participate in this energiser. Some individuals may have reduced mobility, a visible or invisible disability.

This ice breaker/energiser is lots of fun and can be found in many shapes and forms all over the internet. It is a variant of the Zip Zap Zoom energiser and the closest thing I could find to a spell casting/wizardry activity, based on a cowboy variant Minno ran during one of her retros.

Get everyone to form a circle (I used the Sorting Hat activity to decide the order). Proceed by explaining the energiser rules. I recommend doing a couple of trial runs to see if the rules have been understood and finally play it for good.

There are 4 different actions a person can perform. The direction in which they do action is important. A player is out of the game if they perform the wrong action, do it in the wrong direction or if they hesitate. Before starting, decide on someone to begin and the direction they will do it.


ZipCast a spell by pointing towards someone in the same direction. The receiver can use Zip, Zap, Broom or Alakazam
ZapPut you arms above yourself forming a triangle to dodge the Zip for yourself and the next person. The person after the next one in your direction will need to continue. The receiver can use Zip or Broom. Two consecutive Zaps are not allowed
BroomRaise the arm corresponding to the direction the Zip is coming to block it and change direction of the game. Two consecutive Brooms are not allowed. If the wrong arm is used, the player is out of the game
AlakazamLean forwards and point towards the person you want the game to jump to. They can decide the direction the game continues, starting with a Zip. Three consecutive Alakazams are not allowed

At the end declare the individual and the Hogwarts House they represent the winners of the Duel.

Hero’s Journey – Harry Potter themed

Albeit the Hero’s Journey activity is best suited for futurespectives, it can still be run in a retro format and is particularly good as it can be easily adapted to a Harry Potter retrospective. It will help your team think about the story they want to define for their hero (themselves).

To run this activity, prepare and put up 4 index cards (or draw directly on a board), each representing a particular area you want the team to focus on writing the story. Optionally add a 5th category up, the Messenger, for appreciations participants want a messenger to deliver to other team members.

HeroWho is the person or the group going through the journey. Ask the team to focus on identifying both their strengths and weaknesses
GuideName or identify the people, actions or activities that can help and take the team forward towards achieving their goals, getting to the Treasure
CavernThe challenges, unknowns or issues that can stop or prevent the hero from getting to the treasure
TreasureThe goal, award or achievements towards which the Hero is working or fighting for
MessengerMessages of appreciations for individuals or the team that the participants want the messenger to send to other team members

After explaining the focus areas, ask the participants to write post its about them. Group them by topics and by running a filtering activity like dot voting, discuss the most important ones.

Tip: Although optional, use the “Messenger” category to end the retrospective on a positive mood. Either read them out loud or group them per person and hand them privately. It always lifts people’s mood up knowing others appreciate their contribution.

Owl To Self

Using some index cards (or post-it notes) and given everyone has a pen, ask the participants to reflect and write down an action, a thought or something they want to do better/keep themselves accountable for until the next retrospective. Let everyone know this is for themselves and won’t be read out, so they can keep it confidential and take it back with them at their desks.

This is and adaptation from the Note to Self check out activity, taking in consideration the Harry Potter retrospective theme.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Introducing KINN – a privacy-first app to keep in touch with people

Around September last year I wanted to gift myself some peace of of mind. For more than 2 years before that I have been thinking of scrapping my Facebook, Instagram and other “social” media accounts due to privacy, manipulation and time wasting concerns. But one problem arose: everyone is on social media – how would I be able to keep in touch with them?

KINN helps you keep in touch with your friends and family without compromising your privacy.

Identifying my use cases

I started looking at my habits and how I actually used social media to interact with friends who lived in my home country as well as new friends I made while living in UK.

What I found out was that I would normally get in touch with people either because they are important to me (close friends, family) or because I would be reminded about them by seeing their posts on my feeds. 

Unknown algorithms are everywhere

And what I realised was that most of the times I didn’t even know why I’d see someone’s post. Facebook determines the order, time and what you see in the feed in ways that are unknown to us. The algorithms are meant to make you want to see more, incite you and interact with other’s posts. And that was also partially a big reason for why I started to dislike Facebook. I wasn’t in any control of what I’d see and when, and because of that those suggestions might as well could’ve been random.

Getting off social media, and keep being social

At about the end of September I have let everyone know on Facebook that I’d remove it in due course and posted my contact details so people would be able to contact me. I had decided to remove most of my accounts, and only keep iMessage and Whatsapp for instant messaging.

Unfortunately, this didn’t seem to be enough – so I started collecting people’s contact information myself by individually asking them if they want to keep in touch and to share a phone number and email. Most of them even had their birthdays publicly on Facebook as well, so I was able to save that too.

But I figured having the data wasn’t enough. I needed to be reminded about these people… similarly to how I’d randomly see people’s post or getting Facebook notifications about someone’s new activity. 

I understand not everyone uses social media how I did, but I decided to go forward and build an app that I’d use to stay in touch with friends that will not compromise on privacy.

KINN accesses your phone’s contacts and details to be able to remind you about them. In this sense I knew one of the big dependencies of this app would be having an up-to-date contacts book. I have looked into having integrations with other social media to be able to pull such data and making it simpler, but in the past year Facebook has restricted access to personal data more than ever, probably due to recent scandals.

Keeping privacy in mind with each step

KINN keeps all the information local to your phone. No information is ever uploaded or downloaded to or from the app, which makes the app available at all times and doesn’t compromise on privacy.

All notifications are scheduled locally eliminating the need for any remote notifications server or engine. And KINN is able to remind you on demand about getting in touch with someone at a later date.

Not all contacts are the same

If you remember from earlier, a subset of people I was more interested in were close friends and family which is why KINN allows you to set favourite contacts and dedicates a whole separate section to them.

On the opposite, there are a handful of contacts that one probably shouldn’t be reminded to contact randomly, which is why KINN also has an exclusion list. Some contacts types that I can think of would be:

  • Taxi numbers
  • Your boss or managers
  • Your ex partners
  • Restaurant or takeaways

Finally, KINN will show you upcoming birthdays and will notify you on the date of their birthday to keep in touch using rich notification and useful information about what age they’re turning.

Images are worth…

KINN is available right now

KINN is now available to download from the AppStore. If you want to find out more 


Stay in touch with friends

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Friday, 4 May 2018

About the types of * Driven Development

This week, in my current client engagement, my colleagues came up with a little game around what really drives some of those “X Driven Development” techniques, and completing the alphabet with the names of them. Some that are a real thing and some just for laughs. I have personally contributed to some of them, so I invite you to have a read.

* Driven Development →


So far, in my career, I’ve held a couple of jobs around web & software development and there were many occasions when I’d find myself scratching my head why certain decisions were made around prioritisation of my work, my teams work or never prioritising some work. That is probably something most of us can relate to.

I have personally experienced a couple of the ones mentioned in James Birnie’s article, but two still resonate closely to me.

Sales Driven Development is probably one of the more frustrating ones where my team would find that suddenly we have to deliver things we never committed to because the sales department has signed a contract for features that didn’t exist. The other one was around ever changing priorities, which we called Kangaroo Driven Development. From week to another and sometimes from one day to another, the most important thing that we needed to get done would be changed or replaced, based on the decision or opinion of our PO.

That’s my anecdote, although I’ve lived through many others.

Enjoy the read!

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

A take on pragmatic security and Face ID

Security in today’s world is challenging to implement without making it a matter of privacy or ridiculously difficult for the end user. Passwords, PINs or Memorable Words? While many service providers implemented a multi-step verification system, it is still far from perfect. Troy Hunt, in his recent article nicely explains this:

here’s the problem with multi-step verification: it’s a perfect example of where security is friction. No matter how easy you make it, it’s something you have to do in addition to the thing you normally do, namely entering a username and password. That’s precisely the same problem with getting people to put PINs on their phone and as a result, there’s a huge number of devices out there left wide open.

Anecdotally, I have friends working in hotels and you won’t believe how many people who forget their phones don’t even have a passcode.

I found one survey from 2014 which said 52% of people have absolutely nothing protecting their phone. Another in 2016 said the number is more like 34%. Keep searching and you’ll find more stats of wildly varying values but the simple fact remains that there are a huge number of people out there with no protection on the device at all.

Systems like TouchID and now FaceID make this friction go unnoticeable. Over the past couple of weeks we had many people and news outlets lay their opinions and concerns with where technologies are headed. It’s particularly easy in the the machine learning and artificial intelligence space to exaggerate the outcome, but at the same time I understand where these concerns are coming from. I believe it’s great that we’re having a discussion about the implications of such technologies. We had them 4 years ago with Touch ID and we are having them now. But there is no reason to fear monger the whole world, serving Black Mirror style  stories.

How well and consistent Face ID will is yet to be reported. But if there is a company who can get it right, then that is Apple. Stay secure.

Face ID, Touch ID, No ID, PINs and Pragmatic Security →