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Plan-ID:
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String Theory (#129)

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?

This activity is only the first part of a longer game.

Genie in a Bottle (#116)

Playfully explore unmet needs
Source: Özer Özker & Anke Bartels
Present the following scenario to the participants: You have freed a genie from its bottle and you're granted the customary 3 wishes. What do you wish for? Please make
  • one wish for yourself
  • one wish for your team
  • one wish for all the people in the world
Cheating (i.e. wishing for more wishes or more genies) is not allowed!

Let everybody present their wishes. Optionally you can then dot-vote on the best or most appreciated wishes.

BYOSM - Build your own Scrum Master (#94)

The team assembles the perfect SM & takes different points of view
Source: Fabian Schiller
Draw a Scrum Master on a flipchart with three sections on him/her: brain, heart, stomach.
  • Round 1: 'What properties does your perfect SM display?'
    Ask them to silently write down one trait per note. Let participants explain their notes and put them on the drawing.
  • Round 2: 'What does the perfect SM have to know about you as a team so that he/she can work with you well?'
  • Round 3: 'How can you support your SM to do a brilliant job?'
You can adapt this activity for other roles, e.g. BYOProductOwner.

Merge (#21)

Condense many possible actions down to just two the team will try
Source: Lydia Grawunder & Sebastian Nachtigall
Hand out index cards and markers. Tell everyone to write down the two actions they want to try next iteration - as concretely as possible (SMART). Then everyone pairs up with their neighbor and both together must merge their actions into a single list with two actions. The pairs form groups of 4. Then 8. Now collect every group's two action items and have a vote on the final two.

Feedback Door - Numbers (ROTI) (#14)

Gauge participants' satisfaction with the retro on a scale from 1 to 5 in minimum time
Source: ALE 2011, Corinna Baldauf
Put sticky notes on the door with the numbers 1 through 5 on them. 1 is the topmost and best, 5 the lowest and worst.When ending the retrospective, ask your participants to put a sticky to the number they feel reflects the session. The sticky can be empty or have a comment or suggestion on it.

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Retromat contains 127 activities, allowing for 8349005 combinations (25x30x22x22x23+5) and we are constantly adding more.

Created by Corinna Baldauf

Corinna wished for something like Retromat during her Scrummaster years. Eventually she just built it herself in the hope that it would be useful to others, too. Any questions, suggestions or encouragement? You can email her or follow her on Twitter. If you like Retromat you might also like Corinna's blog and her summaries on Wall-Skills.com.

Co-developed by Timon Fiddike

Timon gives Scrum Trainings. As Integral Coach and Agile Coach he coaches executives, managers, product owners and scrum masters. He has used Retromat since 2013 and started to build new features in 2016. You can email him or follow him on Twitter. Photo © Ina Abraham.