Return on Time Invested (ROTI) Retrospective Pattern

The old “what worked, what didn’t” or “stop doing/start doing” gets old fast. Return on Time Invested (ROTI) is a great way to mix things up for agile teams and ask them to reflect on:

  • How they feel about their investment of time in events or the various activities of the Sprint.
  • What they feel would improve their investment of time.

If a team is going to be truly self-managing, this is a good Retrospective pattern that asks them to come up with iterative improvements to the way they behave and interact as a team.

The ROTI scale

ROTI uses the following 5-point Likert scale.

5 - Awesome

I got so much from that event. I wouldn't have missed that for anything!

4 - Great

Definitely valuable. I gained more than the time I spent.

3 - Average

I gained enough to justify the time I spent.

2 - Kind of Useful

Useful, but it wasn't worth 100% of the time I spent. I feel I've lost time.

1 - Useless

I would have rather watched paint dry or grass grow. No value at all.

Using ROTI after an event

When an event like Sprint Planning or the Sprint Review concludes, ask participants to do the following:

  • Be anonymous.
  • Write a number between 1-5 on a sticky-note.
  • Ask them what would be one thing (within their control) that would improve their score by 1-point*.
  • Drop the sticky-note into a hat.

*Obviously, deciding not to do a Daily Scrum or Sprint Review because it’s boring isn’t an option. That’s not within the team’s control.

Asking the team to come up with options for a small improvement is a good way to bring options to the Retrospective for examination and discussion. Ultimately, ROTI helps to place the ownership on making things more effective back on the team members themselves. 

Using ROTI in the Retrospective as a Mood Board

I’ve often plotted out the Sprint’s timeline and used ROTI to guage the team’s emotional wellbeing across the Sprint.

roti over a 4-week sprint

We then look for patterns:

  • Where is there a collective low point? Why did this happen?
  • Where are there collective high points? What was the cause?

Then, we deep-dive into a root cause analysis of the factors that were attributed to the highs and lows and see if we:

  • Create repeatability out of the highs.
  • Avoid the lows.

Using the 1-2-4-all pattern from Liberating Structures is a great way to brainstorm the causes and come up with solutions the whole team owns.

Conclusions

When things aren’t working, some teams interpret ‘self-managing’ as autonomous. These teams change the guardrails to suit their personal preferences for working rather than for the benefit of their customers and the organisation. They decide to drop events like the Daily Scrum because they feel it isn’t working for them istead of asking ‘why’ isn’t it working’ AND ‘how do we fix it?’. 

Whether its when the Retro gets stale, or when things aren’t working, the ROTI Retrospective pattern can help  teams address their problems with the effectiveness of their practices by placing the ownership of improvement back on the team and asking them quite simply, “what’s ONE THING in your control to change to improve what YOU get out of this event“.

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