Surface shared traits and mutual interests among team members Source:
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?
Visualize how information flows in, out and around the team Source:
Is information not flowing as well as it needs to? Do you suspect bottlenecks? Visualize the ways information flows to find starting points for improvements. If you want to look at one specific flow (e.g. product requirements, impediments, ...) check out Value Stream Mapping (#79). For messier situations try something akin to Cause-Effect-Diagrams (#25). Look at the finished drawing. Where are delays or dead ends?
Find the source of problems whose origins are hard to pinpoint and lead to endless discussion Source:
Write the problem you want to explore on a sticky note and put it in the middle of a whiteboard. Find out why that is a problem by repeatedly asking 'So what?'. Find out the root causes by repeatedly asking 'Why (does this happen)?' Document your findings by writing more stickies and showing causal relations with arrows. Each sticky can have more than one reason and more than one consequence Vicious circles are usually good starting points for actions. If you can break their bad influence, you can gain a lot.
Asking and answering go around the team circle - an excellent way to reach consensus Source:
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!
Gauge participants' satisfaction with the retro on a scale from 1 to 5 in minimum time Source:
ALE 2011, Corinna Baldauf
Put sticky notes on the door with the numbers 1 through 5 on them. 1 is the topmost and best, 5 the lowest and worst.When ending the retrospective, ask your participants to put a sticky to the number they feel reflects the session. The sticky can be empty or have a comment or suggestion on it.