How do participants feel at the retro: Explorer, Shopper, Vacationer, or Prisoner? Source: Agile Retrospectives
Prepare a flipchart with areas for E, S, V, and P. Explain the concept:
Explorer: Eager to dive in and research what did and didn't work and how to improve.
Shopper: Positive attitude. Happy if one good things comes out.
Vacationer: Reluctant to actively take part but the retro beats the regular work.
Prisoner: Only attend because they (feel they) must.
Take a poll (anonymously on slips of paper). Count out the answers and keep track on the flipchart for all to see. If trust is low, deliberately destroy the votes afterwards to ensure privacy. Ask what people make of the data. If there's a majority of Vacationers or Prisoners consider using the retro to discuss this finding.
Distribute index cards and markers. Set a topic, e.g. one of the following:
How did you feel during the iteration?
What was the most remarkable moment?
What was the biggest problem?
What did you long for?
If the last iteration had been a circus performance, what part did you play? Juggler, funambulist, clown, knife-thrower, ...
Ask the team members to draw their answer. Post all drawings on a whiteboard. For each drawing let people guess what it means, before the artist explains it. Metaphors open new viewpoints and create a shared understanding.
Participants pick a postcard that represents their thoughts / feelings Source: Corinna Baldauf
Bring a stack of diverse postcards - at least 4 four times as many as participants. Scatter them around the room and instruct team members to pick the postcard that best represents their view of the last iteration. After choosing they write down three keywords describing the postcard, i.e. iteration, on index cards. In turn everyone hangs up their post- and index cards and describes their choice.
Create a big scale (i.e. a long line) on the floor with masking tape. Mark one end as 'Great' and the other as 'Bad'. Let participants stand on the scale according to their satisfaction with the last iteration. Psychologically, taking a stand physically is different from just saying something. It's more 'real'. You can reuse the scale if you close with activity #44.
Place a circle or sphere in the middle of a free space. Let the team gather around it. Explain that the circle is the center of approval: If they agree to a statement they should move towards it, if they don't, they should move as far outwards as their degree of disagreement. Now read out statements, e.g.
I feel I can talk openly in this retrospective
I am satisfied with the last iteration
I am happy with the quality of our code
I think our continuous integration process is mature
Watch the constellations unfold. Afterwards ask which constellations were surprising. This can also be a closing activity (#53).
Check satisfaction with iteration results, communication & mood all at once Source: Judith Andresen
Prepare a flip chart with a co-ordinate plane on it. The Y-axis is 'Satisfaction with iteration result'. The X-axis is 'Number of times we coordinated'. Ask each participant to mark where their satisfaction and perceived touch points intersect - with an emoticon showing their mood (not just a dot).Discuss surprising variances and extreme moods. (Vary the X-axis to reflect current team topics, e.g. 'Number of times we pair programmed'.)
Participants express what they admire about one another Source: Judith Andresen
Start a round of admiration by facing your neighbour and stating 'What I admire most about you is ...' Then your neighbour says what she admires about her neighbour and so on until the last participants admires you. Feels great, doesn't it?
Everyone in the team states their goal for the retrospective, i.e. what they want out of the meeting. Examples of what participants might say:
I'm happy if we get 1 good action item
I want to talk about our argument about unit tests and agree on how we'll do it in the future
I'll consider this retro a success, if we come up with a plan to tidy up $obscureModule
[You can check if these goals were met if you close with activity #14.]
[The Meet - Core Protocol, which inspired this activity, also describes 'Alignment Checks': Whenever someone thinks the retrospective is not meeting people's needs they can ask for an Alignment Check. Then everyone says a number from 0 to 10 which reflects how much they are getting what they want. The person with the lowest number takes over to get nearer to what they want.]
Everybody sums up the last iteration in 3 words Source: Yurii Liholat
Ask everyone to describe the last iteration with just 3 words. Give them a minute to come up with something, then go around the team. This helps people recall the last iteration so that they have some ground to start from.
Assess how to continue with last retro's actions Source: Sven Winkler
Create a table with 5 columns. The first column lists last retro's action items. The other columns are headed 'More of', 'Keep doing', 'Less of' and 'Stop doing'. Participants place 1 sticky note per row into the column that states how they want to proceed with that action. Afterwards facilitate a short discussion for each action, e.g. asking:
Distribute blank index cards and tell the team they have 10 minutes to write a postcard to a person the whole team knows (i.e. an ex-colleague). When the time is up, collect and shuffle the cards before re-distributing them. Team members take turns to read out loud the postcards they got.
Remind each other of agile values you displayed Source: Jesus Mendez
Draw 4 large bubbles and write one of the agile core values into each:
Individuals and their interactions
Delivering working software
Responding to change
Ask participants to write down instances when their colleagues have displayed one of the values - 1 cheerful sticky note per example. In turn, let everyone post their note in the corresponding bubble and read them out loud. Rejoice in how you embody agile core values :)
Ask each team member to try to briefly describe how their neighbour to the right felt during the iteration. Their neighbour confirms or corrects their guess. Once all participants said what they think about how their teammates felt, you get an idea of how connected they are, how the communication is flowing in your team and if people are aware of the feelings expressed, in some way, by others.
Participants show how they feel by drawing a face on a tangerine Source: Afagh Zadeh
Each team member gets a sharpie and a tangerine with a sticky note asking: 'How do you feel? Please give me a face'. After all are done drawing you go around and compare the works of art and emotions. It's a light-hearted way to set the stage.
Surface shared traits and mutual interests among team members Source: Eben Halford
This is an excellent activity for newly formed teams of 6 to 15 members. It speeds up team building by sharing traits and interests so that team members can build closer bonds than possible with just work-related stuff.
Have the team form a circle with everyone looking inwards. Leave about a foot of space between people. Depending on what you want to stress with this activity, you can ask colleagues that usually work remotely to stand about 5 feet away from the circle.
Hand a ball of yarn to a random player and tell them to hold on tight to the end of the yarn with their non-dominant hand and the ball in the dominant one. The yarn holder starts the game by saying something about themselves that is not work-related such as 'I have a daughter' or 'I play the guitar'. If this statement is true for any other team member they raise their hand and say 'Yes, that's me'. The yarn holder passes the ball to the person who raised their hand. If there's more than one, the yarn holder can choose one. If no one shares the statement the yarn holder has to make another statement.
The person who received the ball of yarn holds on to the thread and tautens it. This is the first connection in a network of shared traits. The new yarn holder now makes a statement about themselves, passes the ball while holding on to their part of the yarn and so on.
The game ends when time is up OR everybody has at least two connections OR the yarn runs out.
You can debrief with some of these questions:
What did you notice?
If you've got remote people: How does it feel to stand apart? How does it feel to have someone stand apart?
How do you feel about few (or no) connections?
What is it like to see this web of connections?
Can you be a team without this web?
What would happen if someone let go of their threads? How would it affect the team?
Is there anything you will do differently at work now?
Prepare 1 set of cards per team member. A set of cards contains 1 elephant card, 1 boot card, 1 happy sun card, and 1 moon card. Explain how they each choose one card from their set:
If a team member thinks there is at least one 'Elephant in the room' (unspoken but important problem) for this team, then choose the Elephant card. Choosing this card doesn't mean that they have to talk about the Elephant or even say what they think the problem is.
If there are no Elephants, but they got their feelings hurt in an interaction at least once since the last retrospective (and didn't mention it), choose the Boot crushing flower card.
If everything is hunky dory for them, choose the Happy Sun.
If they're uncomfortable sharing, or don't feel like any other card fits, choose the neutral Moon.
To preserve anonymity, everyone places their chosen card face down on the feedback pile and the rest of their sets face down on a discard pile. Shuffle the discard pile to ensure anonymity and put it aside. Shuffle the feedback pile and then reveal the cards one at a time.
If your team has 1 or more Elephants in the room, you have some serious issues with psychological safety. Let the team sit with their new knowledge and offer a larger retrospective soon to make space for them to share if they wish, but do not ask directly who chose what. Preserve the anonymity and do not coerce explanations of the chosen card! This is a critical opportunity to build trust and preserve your ability to gain insight into the state of the team.
In the same way, depending on the size of your team, two or more hurt feelings suggest that you may have safety issues. Two or more Moons also suggests a lack of psychological safety. Take this feedback into consideration when designing your next retro. There are lots of great ways to more thoroughly dive into and surface learnings, this activity just points out when such a retrospective is needed.