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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.

I like, I wish (#126)

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.

Pessimize (#74)

If we had ruined the last iteration what would we have done?
Source: Judith Andresen
You start the activity by asking: 'If we had completely ruined last iteration what would we have done?' Record the answers on a flip chart. Next question: 'What would be the opposite of that?' Record it on another flip chart. Now ask participants to comment the items on the 'Opposite'-chart by posting sticky notes answering 'What keeps us from doing this?'. Hand out different colored sticky notes to comment on the comments, asking 'Why is it like this?'.

Low Hanging Fruit (#63)

Visualize promise and ease of possible courses of actions to help pick
Source: Tobias Baldauf
Reveal a previously drawn tree. Hand out round index cards and instruct participants to write down the actions they would like to take - one per card. When everyone's finished, collect the cards, shuffle and read them out one by one. Place each 'fruit' according to the participants' assessment:
  • Is it easy to do? Place it lower. Hard? More to the top.
  • Does it seem very beneficial? Place it more to the left. Value is dubious at best? To the right.
The straightforward choice is to pick the bottom left fruit as action items. If this is not consensus, you can either have a short discussion to agree on some actions or dot vote.

Appreciations (#15)

Let team members appreciate each other and end positively
Source: Agile Retrospectives who took it from 'The Satir Model: Family Therapy and Beyond'
Start by giving a sincere appreciation of one of the participants. It can be anything they contributed: help to the team or you, a solved problem, ...Then invite others and wait for someone to work up the nerve. Close, when no one has talked for a minute.

(#)


Source:
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.