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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.

Lean Coffee (#51)

Use the Lean Coffee format for a focused discussion of the top topics
Source: Original description and in action
Say how much time you set aside for this phase, then explain the rules of Lean Coffee for retrospectives:
  • Everyone writes down topics they’d like to discuss - 1 topic per sticky
  • Put the stickies up on a whiteboard or flipchart. The person who wrote it describes the topic in 1 or 2 sentences. Group stickies that are about the same topic
  • Everyone dot-votes for the 2 topics they want to discuss
  • Order the stickies according to votes
  • Start with the topic of highest interest
  • Set a timer for 5 minutes. When the timer beeps, everyone gives a quick thumbs up or down. Majority of thumbs up: The topic gets another 5 minutes. Majority of thumbs down: Start the next topic.
Stop when the allotted time is over.

Brainwriting (#66)

Written brainstorming levels the playing field for introverts
Source: Prof. Bernd Rohrbach
Pose a central question, such as 'What actions should we take in the next iteration to improve?'. Hand out paper and pens. Everybody writes down their ideas. After 3 minutes everyone passes their paper to their neighbour and continues to write on the one they've gotten. As soon as they run out of ideas, they can read the ideas that are already on the paper and extend them. Rules: No negative comments and everyone writes their ideas down only once. (If several people write down the same idea, that's okay.)
Pass the papers every 3 minutes until everyone had every paper. Pass one last time. Now everyone reads their paper and picks the top 3 ideas. Collect all top 3's on a flip chart for the next phase.

Circle of Questions (#11)

Asking and answering go around the team circle - an excellent way to reach consensus
Source: Agile Retrospectives
Everyone sits in a circle. Begin by stating that you'll go round asking questions to find out what you want to do as a group. You start by asking your neighbor the first question, e.g. 'What is the most important thing we should start in the next iteration?' Your neighbor answers and asks her neighbor a related question. Stop when consensus emerges or the time is up. Go around at least once, so that everybody is heard!

Debriefing Cube (#138)

Close with a reflective question from the Debriefing Cube and cards
Source: Chris Caswell and Julian Kea
A good debriefing deepens understanding, learning and sharing. Preparation: Download and assemble the Debriefing Cube and cards. During the retrospective, roll the cube. Then draw a card from the category it shows and use it to prompt a discussion. Repeat as time permits. This will broaden your debriefing options and is especially great for groups without a facilitator to enable them to effectively debrief on their own.

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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.