Development continuum retro — tailor your skill-building

By Rebecca Jones

9 September 2021

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Running a development continuum retro in order to tailor skill-building. Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash.

The Development continuum retro encourages constant, focused professional growth across the team. It lets you tailor your skill-building to each team member’s stage of development.

It’s a retro that you can easily run remotely.

The retrospective was adapted from Ken Blanchard’s book Self Leadership and The One Minute Manager.

When to use this retrospective

Use the Development continuum retro when:

You want to tailor your skill-building to each team member’s stage of development.

This might be:

  • a couple months into a new project to gauge what direction and support the team need to keep developing
  • when new members join and you want to build relationships and create a space where they can ask for support.

What you need

Here’s what you need to run the Development continuum retro.

In person

  • Whiteboard
  • Post-it notes
  • Sharpies
  • Timer

Remotely

  • Video conferencing tool (we use Zoom)
  • Shareable document, slides or jamboards
  • Post-it notes
  • Sharpies
  • Timer

Time

1 hour

The outcome

You’ll work out what support and direction each team member needs to tailor their skill-building to their specific stage of development.

Rather than having retro goals for the whole team, this exercise will give you an individual goal for each team member.

Setup

To set up, put together boards, slides or documents that show the development continuum as described below in step 2. Introduce the development continuum. This includes the needs people have at each stage and ways to get direction and support to build competency and commitment.

In-person

Draw up a board that looks something like this:

Whiteboard written out to explain the development continuum as detailed in section 2. Introduce the development continuum.

Remote

Create slides, jamboards or documents that show the continuum, for example:

A Jam board showing the stages of the development continuum as detailed in 2. Introduce the development continuum.

And ways to get the direction and support to move along to the next stage, for example:

Jam board showing the ways to get help as detailed in 5. Show ways to get direction and support.

1. Opener

Pick an opener of your choice.

2. Introduce the development continuum

Describe the development continuum to the team.

The development continuum is a way of breaking down the stages we go through when we’re trying to master a skill, and the support and direction we need along the way,

There are four different development levels, D1 to D4. They are based on your competency and your commitment. You can move up and down through these levels as your competency and commitment change.

You can develop your competency by getting direction and your commitment by getting support.

This table sets out the development levels and their needs.

You are: If you have: You need:
D1 Enthusiastic beginner Low competency but high commitment High direction, low support
D2 Disillusioned learner Low–some competency and low–variable commitment High direction, high support
D3 Capable but cautious performer Moderate–high competency and variable commitment Low direction, high support
D4 Self-reliant achiever High competency and high commitment Low direction, low support

3. Get the team to place themselves on the continuum

Ask the team to silently think of one skill they need for their role in this team. It’s best if this example is quite specific. Get them to rate their competency and commitment for that skill so they can identify their development level.

Note: for smaller teams, they can think of two skills.

1–2 minute brainstorm

4. Share the results

Get each team member to share the skills they’ve chosen, the development level they’re at for that skill, and why they have placed themselves there.

5. Show ways to get direction and support

Here’s what each of the development levels requires:

If you are: You need:
D1 Enthusiastic beginner High direction, low support
D2 Disillusioned learner High direction, high support
D3 Capable but cautious performer Low direction, high support
D4 Self-reliant achiever Low direction, low support

Ways to get direction and support

Direction

To increase your competence to achieve a goal, you need direction from someone who will:

  • set a clear goal
  • generate an action plan
  • show you how to do the goal/skill
  • clarify roles
  • provide timelines
  • establish priorities
  • monitor and elevate your work and give feedback.

Support

To increase your commitment to achieve a goal, you need support from someone who will:

  • listen to you
  • recognise and appreciate your support
  • facilitate your problem solving
  • ask for your input
  • provide a rationale (remind you why you are doing this)
  • share information about their experience relevant to the goal
  • share information about the organisation relevant to the goal.

6. Identify what direction or support they need

Once they know where they’re at, they can identify what kind of support or direction they need.

Ask the team to think if they mainly need support or direction, based on the development level they placed themselves at. Then ask them to silently identify 1–2 things from the direction or support list.

3 minute brainstorm

7. Share what they need

Everyone will then share what they need with the rest of the team. Encourage a bit of discussion here.

8. Create individual goals

Now ask the team to individually and silently write down the ways they want to get support or direction on post-its.

These become their individual goals for the next sprint.

Get them to write down when they’ll get this support or direction and stick the post-it up at their desk as a reminder.

2 minute write-up

9. Embed the continuum in ongoing development

Suggest the team return to the development continuum if they’re struggling to master something. Let them know it’s important to be proactive so they can get what they need to succeed. It’s easy to run through the process on your own or with a colleague, so you can identify the kind of support or direction you need.

10. Close

Pick a close of your choice.

Learn more

The art of the retrospective

Retrospective plans

All retrospective ideas

Welcome aboard retrospective — when new team members join

Golden moments retrospective — when a project or phase ends

Individual strengths retrospective — reinforce everyone’s contributions

Google Forms remote retro — step-by-step guide with pros & cons

The Treasure Island retrospective — learn what motivates your team

Make a bigger impact tomorrow

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