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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.

Timeline (#4)

Participants write down significant events and order them chronologically
Source: Agile Retrospectives
Divide into groups with 5 or less people each. Distribute cards and markers. Give participants 10min to note down memorable and / or personally significant events. It's about gathering many perspectives. Consensus would be detrimental. All participants post their cards and order them. It's okay to add cards on the fly. Analyze.
Color Coding can help to see patterns, e.g.:
  • Emotions
  • Events (technical, organization, people, ...)
  • Function (tester, developer, manager, ...)

Snow Mountain (#118)

Address problematic burndowns and scope creep
Source: Olivier Fortier
This activity is helpful when a team is constantly dealing with additional requests and scope creep. Use the burndown chart of problematic sprints to draw snowy mountains with the same outline. Add a few trees here and there. Print drawings of kids in various sledging situations such as kid sledging down fast, kid sledging and being scared, kid with a sledge looking bored, etc. (You can use Google image search with 'kid sledging drawing').

In teams of 2 or 3, ask the team members to identify which kid's reaction goes with which part of the mountain.
Example: If the mountain is flat, the kid might be bored. If you're facing a wall, the kid might be scared.

You can then discuss the team's reaction facing their own burndowns.

Chaos Cocktail Party (#61)

Actively identify, discuss, clarify and prioritize a number of actions
Source: Suzanne Garcia via Malte Foegen
Everyone writes one card with an action that they think is important to do - the more specific (SMART), the better. Then team members go around and chat about the cards like in a cocktail party. Every chat pair discusses the actions on their two cards. Stop the chatting after 1 minute. Each chat pair splits 5 points between the two cards. More points go to the more important action. Organize 3 to 5 rounds of chats (depending on group size). At the end everyone adds up the points on their card. In the end the cards are ranked by points and the team decides how much can be done in the next iteration, pulling from the top.

Addendum: In many settings you might want to randomly switch the cards in the beginning and between discussions. In this way, neither of the point splitting parties has a stake in which of the cards gets more points. This is an idea by Dr. Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan via Paul Tevis

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.