Have you heard about PANCAKE retrospective format? The name has nothing to do with pancakes. It is just an easy way to remember an agenda of retrospective categories. PANCAKE stands for Puzzles, Appreciations, News, Challenges, Aspirations, Knowledge, and Endorsements. I had learned about this format from Lynda.com rather than some of the well-known retrospective books or websites. I shared a customized version of PANCAKE format at this month’s Cambridge Agile Exchange meetup, an evening of practical examples to keep retrospectives fresh, engaging and effective.
I was very worried about how my demo is going to turn out since I had a lot of open questions about the participating teams. All thanks to the enthusiasm of the participants, I was quite pleased with the outcome.
Here is a summary of the format and about how to use it:
The format can be useful as a way to start conversations within the team. It is a great way to inspire and direct the team without controlling the conversation or the agenda. PANCAKE stands for
- Puzzles or a source of confusion faced by the team. An example here would be “What are the reasons for the team not to collaborate with the stakeholders?”
- Appreciation of a team member which can sometimes be a flip side of a challenge.
- News relevant to the team. A news item might be something like, “My understanding is that we’re having a new product owner. Has anybody else heard that?” This type of shared understanding is very useful in planning out the team’s process.
- Challenges faced by the team
- Aspirations – hopes and wishes for the team which can be tied to action items. The team might want to create an action item called “Let us make our backlogs visible for collaboration”.
- Knowledge – a byproduct of the whole discussion such as news, challenges, or what puzzles them. As a facilitator, asking the team, “What did we just learn?”
- Endorsements – This is about getting the entire team to agree and prioritize the new action items so that they have a shared understanding of how to address these new challenges.
It’s not important for the team to spend equal time on each letter or even follow the order of letters.
It can work well to start off with Appreciation and News followed by Puzzles, Challenges, Aspirations and wrap up with Knowledge and Endorsements.
This format is especially useful for newer teams since it gives a little bit more direction.
Make the team sit/stand in a circle. Begin by one person appreciating someone to their neighbor. Always make sure that the team spends at least some time calling out people they appreciate. This does two things. First, it makes the meeting more enjoyable. Second, the appreciation is often the flip side of some challenge. The neighbor checks whether flipping the appreciation can show a challenge. Collect any items for puzzles, challenges if any. If a solution to the problem comes out of the discussion put a note in the knowledge section.
You might hear something like, “I really appreciate that the product owner made time to answer my questions yesterday.” So the question that arises is why doesn’t this happen all the time? The neighbor then appreciates someone to his/her neighbor. Go around at least once, so that everybody is heard!
Continue circle of questions kind of format discussing any News relevant to the team. If the team has more to add in Puzzles, Challenges and Aspirations sections, spend some time discussing that next.
Later, let the team discuss what they have learned from their discussion to add in items to the Knowledge section. Keep loads of time for Endorsements since it would be good for the team members to persuade each other and have everyone prioritize and agree to the action items they would want to work together.
This format can be applied to both distributed and co-located teams. If you happen to use this format, please do drop a comment below about your experience.