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six thinking hats retrospective

Contributor(s): Barron Wernick

Six thinking hats is a tool for structuring a discussion to make the process more efficient. The method was developed by Dr. Edward de Bono, a proponent of teaching critical thinking in schools. Dr. de Bono is credited with inventing the term lateral thinking, an approach to problem solving that encourages thinking about the problem in a creative, non-traditional manner. 

Six thinking hats segments different aspects of a discussion into pre-defined parts called hats. The hats, which are represented by different colors, can be thought of as imaginary thinking caps. As the discussion progresses, the facilitator urges the participants to change their imaginary hats and the direction of the conversation. The hats focus the discussion and limit the risk of wasting time with off-topic discussions, arguing and wheel spinning,

Because one of the goals of six thinking hats is to use meeting time productively, it can be a very useful tool for agile and scrum meetings. Here is an example of how the six hats might be used to facilitate an agile/scrum retrospective:

Hat   Time Focus
Blue 5 mins. Discuss / list the objectives for the last iteration.
White 10 mins. Discuss anything from the last iteration which can be said to be a fact or information. Hunches and feelings and any discussion of reasons or other non-information based output should be left for the appropriate hat.
Yellow 10 mins. Participants can only talk about the good things that happened in the last iteration.
Black 10 mins. Participants can only talk about the bad things that happened - this is the time to share any negative criticism, point out bottlenecks and bring up potential problems.
Green 10 mins. Discuss ideas for solving problems or things that may add more value to the business or help in any way. Be creative.
Red 5 mins. Share emotional responses that can be turned into action items or key take-away. Keep things simple -- for example, stay away from suggesting something like “refactor the database.”

 

Continue reading about six hats thinking:

Read Dr. Edward de Bono’s book, Six Thinking Hats.

Get Rid Of Unproductive Meetings With Six Thinking Hats

The six hats of project management

How to be an agile project manager (PM)

This was last updated in April 2012

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