The Elvis Retrospective is a retrospective format that helps you and your team think about what is going on in your team, so it is mostly helpful in generating data. Due to its creative and fun twist, it can help people to think a bit differently or open up more easy.
For the format you need a wall with 6 topics on which people can post sticky-notes (sounds familiar right?) Of course the topics are now all related to Elvis hits:
Always on my mind What is always on your mind, or things that should always be on your mind.
A little less conversation The stuff we are always talk about, but never take enough action on.
Now or never This needs action right now, or should be dropped all together.
Blue suede shoes Some things should not be stepped on. What should we treat extra careful?
Devil in disguise Dangers are lurking. What are we missing?
Return to sender Don’t listen to this or don’t do this.
To make the retro be more fun and get everybody into it, it is nice to draw an Elvis on your board, or print out a silhouette of Elvis and put that in the middle of your wall. For some extra spirit you can put on some Elvis music in the time that people enter or write their sticky notes.
This is also a good format to hold digitally, for example using a Jamboard or similar shared digital whiteboard.
I had a good time hosting this format, and it generated some good ideas. Reactions were quite positive.
After the creation of ideas, I used dot voting to find the most hot topics to discuss and come to actions for. But any other methods will do.
As you may know, I am a pretty creative guy. If I came up with something new or surprising people often ask me: how do you come up with that stuff? Well, frankly I get a lot of my thoughts by the inspiration of others. And this can be anything: from nature to architecture, from music to comedy. There are so many great things to see and experience.
So here is another gem I found today that may spark your creativity. It’s a video of 2CELLOS, two guys getting sound out of a cello that nobody ever got. In this video they do a cover AC/DC’s Thunderstruck. The sound of the cellos cover it all: the deep basses, the screaming guitars and even Brian Johnson’s piercing voice.
And while I will never be capable of performing things like this, it really ups my game in creativity. It tells me nothing is impossible. Look outside that box!
But it also raises the bar. Sampling from the great leaves you easily dissatisfied if your own work isn’t up to the standards you expect from yourself. For me: I just push harder, and keep adjusting till it’s good. Watching videos like these at night helps me recharge and up my game the next day.
One of my guilty pleasures is watching car restoration TV shows. It’s not about the cars for me, but about the whole project: the transformation from a rusty barrel to an amazing vehicle. And the whole package is interesting: from the initial buy to mechanical engineering to aesthetics to usability and a final sale.
One of the shows is Wheeler Dealers. Yes, I know it’s scripted and things are not always what they look like (see for example here and here). But Mike Brewers was, and still is, a car trader with his own company. And Edd China is a technician with a university degree in engineering product design and still working on and inventing crazy vehicles. So they are both qualified to show the tricks of their trade.
In each show Mike selects an iconic car that he tries to buy cheap, and Edd does the repairing, taking the viewers along on how the repairs go or how some of the mechanics work. Where it is not possible to fix they find ways to cheaply refurbish parts or get an aftermarket replacement for parts. In the end Mike closes a deal on the car to make a profit.
So in each episode they show the story of rebuilding a car, and working on a team together on getting it done, each person good at their speciality. Mike is good at haggling and finding good deals, and Edd (and team) are good mechanics. They both have a clear vision on what the car needs (and what not) to make it the best restoration and get it sold.
This looks a lot like the cross functional teams I work with. Each individual has their speciality, maybe it analysis or research, software engineering or designing. Or maybe it testing. But they are all trades we need to tackle the stories or epics that we want to deliver for a profit.
And where Edd and Mike discuss on what is best for the car, our software team discusses what is the best solution to implement for the story. Where Edd pinpoints out bad mechanical solutions, we see software engineers removing technical debt causing bugs. While they both aim to keep the costs low, they know when to use an aftermarket part or refurbish a new part or sometimes even build an own part. We do the same by selecting existing components of a framework or choosing to build our own.
And where in the show it feels like natural team work, where of course Edd complains about the amount of work Mike picked up, I see this quite often missing in software teams. Often people stick to their trade, and teams don’t discuss the solution. They just do their part and hand it over to the next person (or worse, just move a Jira ticket and hope someone else picks it up).
Another similarity is where Edd and Mike do not know how much work it will be when they start. They notice issues on the car, but often do not know where the mechanical issue is. They have a rough idea, but don’t know it specifically. Just like teams do when they estimate a story. You don’t need to have a clear design, just know whether it is probably worthwhile or not. Maybe I will dedicate an other story on this for another car show: Flipping Bangers, where the estimation (and failure) is more common.
And while we are on the subject of vision and teamwork, it may also be good to mention how Edd left the show after some take overs and changes were made to the format that he couldn’t agree on. This is a real good example on how you should part with a team or employer when you differ so much on the vision you have. Don’t continue on a cause you do not believe in, you will start to feel miserable. And when you leave, I would say do it in his style as well: without grudge, looking forward towards new opportunities, and wish you successor the best of luck. Whether you were right or not doesn’t really matter, create your own future!
Time is a funny thing, you just have it and the only thing you can do with it is spend it. You can’t store time, you can’t earn more time nor can you spend less of it. Each day you will spend 86,400 seconds. It is your decision where you spend it on.
Jay Shetty, a motivational speaker and vlogger, has made a nice video on this; challenging you to make choices and spend time wisely. While there are some remarks to be made on the video, the general message is clear and inspiring.
Let’s go over the video based on some of the best quotes.
Time is free but it is priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. And once it’s lost, you can never get it back.
This is a very important lesson: time simply is here for us to use. It costs nothing to use it. You can choose not to use it, but then it will be gone. Forever.
Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you can never get more time.
While it often doesn’t feel this way, it is very true. Of course, most of us are blessed with quite a long live, and plenty of time. So it feels like we can freely waste it. But in all reality, it is a scarce commodity.
The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.
Ah, there is the bright side! We are in the driver’s seat. We can choose where to spend our time on.
Imagine you wake up every day with $86,400 in your bank account. And at the end of the night it’s all gone whether you spent it or not. And then the next day you get another $86,400. What would we do with it?
This is such a nice comparison. How would you feel about not spending the money to see it all disappear at the end of the day? Would you choose not to spend it? Of course, the next you will have the money again, but still… Think of all the nice things you could have had! Can you imagine being too lazy to spend it? Or just not in the mood? And yet with time, we take it so easily for granted…
It’s a choice
We think it’s people wasting our time but it’s really us giving them the permission to do that.
It’s always easy to put blame on others, and to sit back and complain about it. While so often we have a say in it. We can change the situation. Take matters into your own hands and change things for the better.
Inside all of us there are two voices – one voice that wants to uplift, to expand, to grow. And then there is the other voice – the voice that holds us back, makes us lazy, makes us complacent, that restricts us from our potential. Inside of us there’s this battle between the two voices. And guess which one wins? The one that we listen to the most.
Again, we always have a choice. It’s a choice to hold back, be lazy or complacent. We can choose not to make everything of life. Of course, none of us have the same potential. We are all different, we all have our own strengths. We all have different things that we love, that motivates us. Things we can never get enough of. But it is our own choice to go for them. To find them. To reach out to them.
Life teaches us to make good use of time and time teaches us the value of life.
Time and value are intertwined. By spending time we can find out what we love – what is valuable to us. And we can acquire this value by spending time. But life is short. We don’t have endless time. We can make the most of our lives. We can make the most of this year. We can make the most of today.
But while Jay is focussing on our private lives mostly, the same holds true for our work lives. In our jobs we also always have limited time. And too much unclear or unnecessary stuff to do. Stuff that we don’t know the value of, or question the value of it.
So why are we doing this? Why don’t we focus on the valuable things? It is so much more satisfying to do things that are really worthwhile.