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Spot the Elephant (#130)

Are there problems nobody talks about?
Source: Willem Larsen
Prepare 1 set of cards per team member. A set of cards contains 1 elephant card, 1 boot card, 1 happy sun card, and 1 moon card. Explain how they each choose one card from their set:
  • If a team member thinks there is at least one 'Elephant in the room' (unspoken but important problem) for this team, then choose the Elephant card. Choosing this card doesn't mean that they have to talk about the Elephant or even say what they think the problem is.
  • If there are no Elephants, but they got their feelings hurt in an interaction at least once since the last retrospective (and didn't mention it), choose the Boot crushing flower card.
  • If everything is hunky dory for them, choose the Happy Sun.
  • If they're uncomfortable sharing, or don't feel like any other card fits, choose the neutral Moon.
To preserve anonymity, everyone places their chosen card face down on the feedback pile and the rest of their sets face down on a discard pile. Shuffle the discard pile to ensure anonymity and put it aside. Shuffle the feedback pile and then reveal the cards one at a time.

If your team has 1 or more Elephants in the room, you have some serious issues with psychological safety. Let the team sit with their new knowledge and offer a larger retrospective soon to make space for them to share if they wish, but do not ask directly who chose what. Preserve the anonymity and do not coerce explanations of the chosen card! This is a critical opportunity to build trust and preserve your ability to gain insight into the state of the team.

In the same way, depending on the size of your team, two or more hurt feelings suggest that you may have safety issues. Two or more Moons also suggests a lack of psychological safety. Take this feedback into consideration when designing your next retro. There are lots of great ways to more thoroughly dive into and surface learnings, this activity just points out when such a retrospective is needed.

Find your Focus Principle (#123)

Discuss the 12 agile principles and pick one to work on
Source: Tobias Baier
Print the principles of the Agile Manifesto onto cards, one principle per card. If the group is large, split it and provide each smaller group with their own set of the principles.

Explain that you want to order the principles according to the following question: 'How much do we need to improve regarding this principle?'. In the end the principle that is the team's weakest spot should be on top of the list.

Start with a random principle, discuss what it means and how much need for improvement you see, then place it in the middle. Pick the next principle, discuss what it means and sort it relatively to the other principles. You can propose a position depending on the previous discussion and move from there by comparison. Repeat this until all cards are sorted.

Now consider the card on top: This is presumeably the most needed and most urgent principle you should work on. How does the team feel about it? Does everyone still agree? What are the reasons there is the biggest demand for change here? Should you compare to the second or third most important issue again? If someone would now rather choose the second position, why?

Remember the Future (#37)

Imagine the next iteration is perfect. What is it like? What did you do?
Source: Luke Hohmann, found at Diana Larsen
'Imagine you could time travel to the end of the next iteration (or release). You learn that it was the best, most productive iteration yet! How do your future selves describe it? What do you see and hear?' Give the team a little time to imagine this state and jot down some keywords to aid their memory. Then let everyone describe their vision of a perfect iteration.
Follow up with 'What changes did we implement that resulted in such a productive and satisfying future?'Write down the answers on index cards to use in the next phase.

Circles & Soup / Circle of Influence (#29)

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, ...)

Know your neighbour - Closing (#109)

How does your left neighbour feel about the retrospective
Source: Inspired by Fabián Lewkowicz
Ask each team member to guess if their left neighbour thinks this retrospective was a good use of their time and why. Their neighbour confirms or corrects their guess.

If you have set the stage with activity #108, make sure to go around the other direction this time.

(#)


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