Focus on focus off

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retrospective meeting, for example, at the end of s sprint, after welcoming the participants and reviewing the goal and agenda.

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Setting the stage with a mind-set for productive communication helps participants set aside blaming and judgment—and fear of blaming and judgment.

After describing productive and unproductive communication patterns, invite the participants to discuss what they mean for the gathering.


  1. Draw attention to the Focus On/Focus Off poster and briefly read through it.
  2. Form small groups, with no more than four people per group. Ask each group to take one pair of words to define and describe. If there are more than four pairs/groups, it’s OK if more than one group has the same pair of words.
  3. Ask each group to talk about:
    1. what their two words mean;
    2. what behaviors they represent; and
    3. what impact each has on the team and the meeting.
  4. Have each group reports out to the whole on their conversation.
  5. Invite everyone to stay in the ‘Focus On’ mode.


Have everyone compare words like inquiry/advocacy, dialogue/debate, conversation/argument, and understanding/defending, their meaning, and how they impact behavior. Use the outcome of the converstation as a lead-in to establish working agreements for the retrospective meeting and the team charter.

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Participants will often keep this in mind during the rest of the meeting and behave accordingly.

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