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?
Walk through each story handled by the team and look for possible improvements Source: Corinna Baldauf
Preparation: Collect all stories handled during the iteration and bring them along to the retrospective. In a group (10 people max.) read out each story. For each one discuss whether it went well or not. If it went well, capture why. If not discuss what you could do differently in the future. Variants: You can use this for support tickets, bugs or any combination of work done by the team.
Group discussion with varying subsets of participants Source: Diana Larsen
Place at least 4 and at most 6 chairs in a row so that they face the group. Explain the rules:
Take a bench seat when you want to contribute to the discussion
One seat must always be empty
When the last seat is taken, someone else must leave and return to the audience
Get everything going by sitting on the 'bench' and wondering aloud about something you learned in the previous phase until someone joins. End the activity when discussion dies down. This is a variant of 'Fish Bowl'. It's suited for groups of 10-25 people.
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, ...)