By Moye Balogun
For Agile teams that require more defined direction than others, such as newly developed teams, a PANCAKE retrospective is a useful method (Rose). Contrary to what one might expect from the name, PANCAKE retrospectives have nothing to do with delectable breakfast food. Rather, PANCAKE stands for “Puzzles, Appreciations, News, Challenges, Aspirations, Knowledge, and Endorsements” (Rose). This is a list of categories that set the agenda for the retrospective (Rose). To begin, the facilitator will list the acronym on a board and the team will set post-it notes that apply to each category (Rose).
This is the category where the team communicates what puzzles or confuses them about the project or the sprint (Rose). This is the step where it is important to make the team feel comfortable so that they can freely express even the possibly basic things they do not understand (Rose).
Team members dedicating even a brief time to expressing what they appreciate about others in the group is quite beneficial. Doing this makes meetings more enjoyable and it can inadvertently highlight challenges (Rose). In Doug Rose’s video seminar about PANCAKE retrospectives, he gives the example of a team member saying “I really appreciate the organization’s commitment to Scrum. So is there a way we can send more people through training?” This appreciation compliments the organization, while simultaneously highlighting that it would be a benefit for more employees to be trained in Scrum.
This is the step where the group will gather information usually about their organization (Rose). Even if the discussion involves “rumors or gossip,” it can useful if it applies to the team (Rose). By bringing up a topic, there is an opportunity to confirm or deny the information or reserve it for further study later. The discussion of news usually brings about a collective awareness of what events are taking place and becomes beneficial when planning out how the team intends to progress (Rose).
Challenges often relate to other items on the agenda (Rose). In this phase, it is the facilitator’s job to turn the identified challenges into action items that will implement a change (Rose). If the facilitator fails to do this, the same problems will keep showing up at the end of every sprint (Rose).
Aspirations, or the “hopes and wishes of a team,” should also connect with action items (Rose). Whether these aspirations are deemed as dull necessities or exciting opportunities, they should not be “empty wishes”, but rather, need to be met with a clear plan on how they can possibly be achieved (Rose).
The team’s knowledge should stem from the information they have gathered from the Puzzles, News, and Challenges discussions of the PANCAKE retrospective (Rose). Knowledge is where the team will create a “shared story” based on the input of all members (Rose). The facilitator might begin this by directly asking the team what they just learned (Rose).
Endorsements can be a challenging portion of this retrospective because it entails getting the team to agree on and rank the newly created action items (Rose). The endorsements portion should also involve the team developing a “shared understanding” of what it takes to overcome the challenges they have and be in consensus on whether the improvements they wish to make are truly valuable (Rose).
The PANCAKE retrospective is a good method of starting conversation in new Agile teams (Rose). Following this technique allows for teams to be clearly directed by the facilitator, but not controlled (Rose). Understanding these sections, and dedicating an equal amount of time to each, gives teams the ability to uncover what they deem significant and keeps them on track to conduct a productive retrospective.
Rose, Doug. “How to Run a PANCAKE Retrospective.” Lynda.com - from LinkedIn, 4 Feb. 2016, www.lynda.com/Business-Skills-tutorials/How-run-PANCAKE-retrospective/175961/468247-4.html.