What is a Hero’s Journey retrospective?
In a Hero’s Journey retrospective – which is really more of a futurespective – you’ll imagine your team as an intrepid party of explorers on a quest to find hidden treasure.
The Hero’s Journey is an iconic story structure, found in popular novels, myths, and even religious texts!
It was first popularized by Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, but it’s been around for hundreds (if not thousands) of years.
That might sound like a pretty dramatic way to frame an agile meeting. But that’s exactly what makes it so much fun! Especially if you’re starting a big, daunting project, this retro or futurespective is a great way to get inspired and excited for what lies ahead.
Here are the prompts to run a great Hero’s Journey activity with your team:
Think about what being a hero means to you. What attitudes and characteristics could help the heroes reach their goal?
Then, list out the heroic attributes you think your team has. How will those traits help you on your journey?
Example: Our team is so great at taking constructive criticism. When we get some negative feedback, we don’t take it personally, or like it’s the end of the world – it’s just a way to improve!
At the scariest part of your journey, your guide appears in a poof of smoke, offering cryptic wisdom that helps you choose the right path.
Who’s the wizard, sage, or genie that’s guiding your team? Who can you rely on for help, or who do you think you could turn to if things get tough?
Example: Our Chief Marketing Officer is such a wealth of support and knowledge. It’s so great to have an industry veteran to turn to when we’re unsure about something.
Whether it’s dragons, zombies, or just a high-maintenance stakeholder, every team faces adversity during their journey.
Don’t get scared – those hurdles are what make things exciting! Brainstorm what challenges might lie ahead for your team. If you like, come up with some action items you could use to get past them.
Example: We need to watch out that we’re being realistic about what we can take on so we don’t burn out. No matter how much we want to hit our product goals, if we over-promise, we’ll under-deliver.
What treasure is waiting at the end of your journey? What does success look like when you reach your destination?
This prompt is all about picturing what you want to achieve. This might be a hero’s journey, but you should still keep things specific and realistic, so you know what you’re working towards.
An ancient treasure chest full of gold coins is exciting, but if you’re a crew of software developers rather than pirates, it might not be in the cards.
Example: If we can master this project, it will give our whole team the confidence to take on more complex pieces of work in future.
👻 Psst, if you’re more into pirates, you can adapt this retrospective with the prompts Pirates, Map, Treasure, Cavern.
When to do a Hero’s Journey retrospective
At the start of a project
Because this is a futurespective, it’s best used for looking forward!
Mapping out your journey together is a great way to get excited for a big sprint or project. It can also help people feel less overwhelmed, because they have some idea what to expect on the road ahead.
When you’re dealing with challenges
Every story needs a little bit of struggle and conflict to make it exciting.
If your team’s been through some hard times together (or is expecting to be) this template might just give you the perspective you need.
How to run a Hero’s Journey activity in Parabol
First things first, get Parabol for free. Then, when you’re in Parabol hit the Add New Meeting button and choose a “retrospective” meeting.
Select the Hero’s Journey retrospective template
Jump into Parabol and select Retro Meeting with the arrows, then use the dropdown to select the Hero’s Journey retrospective template. This is where you’ll find Parabol’s library of 40+ pre-made and customizable retrospective formats.
Every Parabol retrospective begins with an optional icebreaker. This box is checked by default. You don’t have to do one, but we recommend it – especially for remote teams.
Start your Hero’s Journey retrospective with an Icebreaker
If you’re doing an icebreaker, you’ll have a random question to answer. You can refresh it if you want another option, and of course you can create your own if you want.
Perhaps ask team members if there’s a particular hero they look up to!
After the icebreaker you’ll move on to the reflect stage. This is where your team will do all their ideation and brainstorm in silence using the prompts above. All reflections are kept anonymous at this stage to prevent groupthink. Parabol gives Scrum Masters or meeting facilitators the option to timebox this process.
All Parabol sprint retrospectives can be run synchronously or asynchronously. Functionalities such as the timer, voting and multiplayer grouping help you make your retrospective exercise a success and make facilitation easier.
Reflect, Group, and Discuss topics based on the Hero’s Journey prompts
Team members can all leave comments together, or do it at a time that works for them. Also, reflections are anonymous, and no one can see them until you’re done working on them.
After the reflect phase, you’ll vote on issues to discuss, talk about the most voted on items, and follow up with action items for each process improvement so you can make it a reality.
Parabol will send a summary of the retro when you’re done so nobody needs to take notes.
Of course, you can do this retrospective in person, with a whiteboard or sticky notes. But it’s even easier in Parabol, especially if you’re an asynchronous or distributed team.
If you like this template, you might also like other futurespective ideas or retrospective ideas that involve a forward-looking element, such as the Hot Air Balloon retrospective, Hopes and Fears retrospective, or the SWOT retrospective.