Futurespective - put the past in front of you

· March 9, 2018

“Wow - this release was awesome. So fast, almost no manual testing and only one bug found in testing,” Sarah exclaimed in joy.

“Yeah, but there was that one bug. It should be zero, huh?”, Marcus responded grumpily from his corner, without looking up from the screen.

“Also - there are still manual testing going on. It should be all automated,” John chimed in, unimpressed.

“Fast and fast … still our build runs in 8 minutes. That is a long time. Way too long if you ask me!” Alex sighed as she pointed to the build log on the screen.

Sarah went back to her desk. Her enthusiasm was gone.

I think we often miss the improvements we made by not looking back and appreciate the journey we made. If we only talk about what is still not great we lose track of how far we have come. This is in particular common among developers I’ve noticed, and even more so in teams that have been under a lot of pressure since they never got around to fixing that thing that we got promised to do 4 months ago….

I wanted to share just a thought about this that has proven helpful for some of those teams that I had the opportunity to talk to.

Imagine the team in the introduction. In that conversation, you could halt them, where Sarah got depressed, and ask them to think about where they were 4 months ago. Let’s see.

“Four months ago? Heck - at that point we built the thing on your computer Marcus”, John shivers at the thought.

“Yeah. And the testing was all manual. Wasn’t it 3 months ago we had the first ever automated test?” Marcus scratch his chin will search his memory.

“Remember that we shortened our sprints with two days just to …”, John says but gets interrupted.

“Build-and-move-it-to-testing,” Alex makes air quotes that make everyone remember that particular column on the board.

See! Immense progress has been made. This team has really achieved something.

“Yeah, but it still far to go,” Marcus interrupts the blog post writer as he is a negative person. “We need to blah blah blah and then bleuh bleuh bleuh and to mention yada yada yada”.

Maybe. But stop for a while and think about all those great things you did the last 4 months. If we were another 4 months into the future more great stuff like that has happened. Imagine that beautiful place we are in? After all those improvements, that we still are to make, has happened. It must be something amazing, don’t you think? No manual testing, blazingly fast build and releases on an hourly basis. I can only guess.


By appreciating our journey to now, extrapolating it into the future a positive feeling of progress can be created. One that, when I tried it, always is greater than our challenges right here and now.


Yes, by all means, there are problems to solve. And we should not close our eyes to them. But in most cases where I’ve found this technique useful, the opposite is true; we drown in a sea of problems, losing the will or power to see any good things. The list of problems become more work that we need to check off. The only sense of accomplishment is that we have crossed them out.

Instead - imagine the future you are heading towards and send yourselves a postcard from that future (from the lovely Switch-book)

There’s a retrospective technique called futurespective, that I haven’t explored more than been uplifted by its positive name.

Twitter, Facebook