The Wizard of Oz Retrospective format is a fun, interactive spin-off of the 5 Whys format, which allows the team to perform a root cause analysis.
How to play
When to use this format
If the team has identified a point of concern, a challenge, or an issue, this format is ideal for helping the team identify the root cause and some action points to help resolve the challenge.
What to do
Have the team draw a tornado. To make it extra fun, have them draw in creative flying stuff, like cows, flying monkeys, a witch, or whatever comes to their minds. Have them draw destruction on the ground at the bottom of the tornado. This represents the challenge or problem that the team has identified, so have them write down the challenge next to the crushed farmhouse (or whatever depiction of destruction they decided to draw).
Next, ask the team why they think they are facing this challenge, and write the answer above the ground, partway up the tornado. Leave room to write five reasons above the challenge.
When the team has identified a basic answer to the “why” of their challenge, ask them “why” in response. Repeat this five times, until you have five whys and have reached the root of the problem.
A simple example of the 5 Whys (or root cause analysis) as applied to why your car stopped on the way to work could be:
Problem: My car stopped unexpectedly.
Why? Because I ran out of gas.
Why? Because I didn’t stop for gas on the way to work.
Why? Because I didn’t have time.
Why? Because I overslept.
Why? Because I stayed out at a party last night.
So you can see from the 5 Whys that by the time you get to the fifth why, you have identified a root cause — staying out late at a party. Therefore, a conclusion can be drawn: If you want to get to work on time, not run out of gas, have time to stop for gas on the way to work, and not oversleep, you should not stay out partying the night before.
After the root cause has been uncovered, facilitate the team in drawing conclusions about what they can do to prevent the problem from continuing to occur, as in the car example above.
Make a list of action points, as in any retrospective, to be certain the team learns and acts upon their realizations.
Playing with remote teams
You can use any online whiteboarding tool to do this with remote teams. Another option is to have the onsite team members draw whatever the remote team members ask them to draw. Both formats can be very entertaining.
My teams love this retrospective format, because they get to be creative with the drawings and because it provides insights that help them avoid issues and problems that they would rather not repeat.
Here is the diagram from one of my teams. At the bottom left is the retro of the retro — what did they think of the retro format? How fun was it? How useful was it? This format consistently gets some of the best ratings.