I watched as the team shuffled into the meeting room, some holding their “Start, Stop, Continue” post-it notes in their hands.
“Okay folks! We’ve got an opportunity to pitch a new series that Netflix are going to air later in the year”
The team look at me, bemused.
“Basically they want a mockumentry on the work we just completed, and the way we delivered it. I’m worried that it’s not going to be dramatic enough. Can you help me make it more dramatic?”
I could see one participant put away their post-its nervously.
“First let’s consider a suitable genre. What do you think, Love story?”
I hear someone shout “Comedy”, another one calls out “Farse”. I don’t let them see my grimmace as I write these on the whiteboard.
“Good stuff, we’ll go with farse for now. Let’s think up who we’d like to play ourselves.”
Minutes later we have a cast list. Robert DiNero is in this series, as is Bruce Willis and Monica from Friends. Someone has added Remi Malek and I’m pretty sure another suggestion is the person from the Twilight movies, but I try not to show my age. I’ve written them down, but not written which character belongs to which team member. This allows people to assume the roles play better.
“Good stuff, now I know a little technique from writing stories. It’s called a tension graph. You map the tension over time. I want to know what where the main moments of tension.”
I draw a dot and write the project start date. I draw another dot and write the end date. I remeber a bank holiday somewhere in the middle and write that date.
“Do you remeber when the Dave broke the build right before the easter brake?” asks someone
I move to the list of characters and try to read them “Dave…?” I ask looking mock-confused. The respondant sighs and says “Bruce”.
“Excellent” I state, as I mark on the timeline ‘Bruce breaks the build’. “I’m guessing tension was pretty high at this point then”, and I draw an arc going upwards.
“Not as bad as when the requirements changed right at the end”
The energy lifts in the room, the team were getting the hang of it.
I love this retrospective format as it gets people thinking about themselves in the third person. I cannot stress enough how useful it was for me to hear someone say “Monica was crying at this point because…” as a moment when an individual could admit the (heightened) emotional impact of certain situations, and accidentally revealing things they don’t normally say in a professional context. It’s easy to then explore alternate ways the “drama could have played out”.
After the story arc is established and we’ve explored the key moments I ask the team to visualise another scenario.
“Great work team. Now Netflix is keen to hear what the second series will be like, so let’s try to dial up the drama a little. What could we make more extreme?”
This allows the team to explore the things that would make things worse. It’s useful power because in the later days you may find members losing theseleves and repeating the mistakes from before. Now you have an amusing way to set them on the right path “I’m not sure Remi Malek would do that again”.
I also then like to ask the teeam to consider an alternative.
“… but we all know that the second series they comission is rubbish, so let’s make this the most boring second series ever. What shall we change?” and now the team jump into all the things they want to do differently to make things better. I write everything they say down, and snapshot this board for prosperity.
You can conclude with a simple query…
“It might get dramatic again, tensions will rise and fall. Please take a moment to think over the next few weeks ‘How can I make this series more boring?’.”