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?
Give positive, as well as non-threatening, constructive feedback Source: Inspired by Satu Rekonen
Hang up two flip charts, one headed 'I like' and the other 'I wish'. Give the participants 5-10 minutes to silently write down what they liked about the past iteration and the team and what they wish was different (and how it should be different) – one point per sticky note. When everyone is finished, go around the circle and everybody reads out their 'I like' items and hangs them up. Repeat the same for the 'I wish' stickies. Either debrief or use the stickies as input for the next phase.
'Imagine you could time travel to the end of the next iteration (or release). You learn that it was the best, most productive iteration yet! How do your future selves describe it? What do you see and hear?' Give the team a little time to imagine this state and jot down some keywords to aid their memory. Then let everyone describe their vision of a perfect iteration. Follow up with 'What changes did we implement that resulted in such a productive and satisfying future?'Write down the answers on index cards to use in the next phase.
Create actions based on how much control the team has to carry them out Source: Diana Larsen who adapted it from 'Seven Habits of Highly Effective People' by Stephen Covey and Circle of Influence and Concern' by Jim Bullock
Prepare a flip chart with 3 concentric circles, each big enough to put stickies in. Label them 'Team controls - Direct action', 'Team influences - Persuasive/recommending action' and 'The soup - Response action', from innermost to outermost circle respectively. ('The soup' denotes the wider system the team is embedded into.) Take your insights from the last phase and put them in the appropriate circle. The participants write down possible actions in pairs of two. Encourage them to concentrate on issues in their circle of influence. The pairs post their action plans next to the respective issue and read it out loud. Agree on which plans to try (via discussion, majority vote, dot voting, ...)