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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.

Tell me something I don’t know (#133)

Reveal everyone's hidden knowledge with a game show
Source: Adapted by Kai Alexander Lohr
Instruct participants as follows: ‘There’s a game show called ‘Tell me something I don’t know’. In it a guest states a fact, poses a related question and then the hosts ask questions in order to guess the right answers.

Here’s an example: ‘In the US you always sing along to the national anthem. In Spain no one does. Can you guess why?’ The hosts ask questions such as ‘Does it have to do with the Franco era?’, ‘Are the lyrics in a foreign language e.g. Latin?’ etc. They either guess the answer or the guest reveals it (‘The Spanish anthem doesn’t have any lyrics’).

We’re going to play this game now. Each of you will be the guest once with all the others asking questions. Reflect on the past iteration. Use the next 5 minutes to think of a fact and question.’

The fact has to fulfill 3 criteria. Write them down on a board or reveal a pre-written flipchart:
  1. It must be something that only you know and most other team members don’t know (or are unaware of)
  2. It must be worth knowing
  3. It must be actionable, i. e. have the potential to spark anything along the lines of "Let's do more/less of this.", "Watch out this doesn't happen to you.", "That was awesome. Do try it yourself.", ...
Let them write down their fact on an index card. When everyone is ready, ask the first participant to hang up their index card on the board and present their fact and question to the audience. (People who feel uncomfortable with the game flair don’t have to ask a question. They can also just tell the story around their fact without questions from the ‘audience’.) The audience asks questions to guess the answer. Short discussions are okay. The Scrum Master may also ask questions and gently steer the conversation towards possible actions. Document any actions identified during the discussion on the board. Then move on to the next participant. Use about 5 minutes per participant.

Once all the facts have been presented, the team dot-votes which fact fulfilled the 3 criteria best. The winner receives a framed “Certificate of impressive knowledge”. It documents that “$name has impressed $team with their impressive knowledge”.

The facts and actions can be input for "Generate insight" or use the actions for "Decide what to do”.

Cause-Effect-Diagram (#25)

Find the source of problems whose origins are hard to pinpoint and lead to endless discussion
Source: Henrik Kniberg
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.

Dot Voting - Worked well, Do differently (#39)

Brainstorm what worked well & what to do differently and pick the top initiatives
Source: Agile Retrospectives
Head 2 flip charts with 'Worked well' and 'Do differently next time' respectively. Ask your participants to write concrete proposals for each category - 1 idea per index card. Let them write in silence for a few minutes. Let everyone read out their notes and post them to the appropriate category. Lead a short discussion on what the top 20% beneficial ideas are. Vote on it by distributing dots or X's with a marker, e.g. 1, 2, and 3 dots for each person to distribute. The top 2 or 3 become your action items.

Helped, Hindered, Hypothesis (#16)

Get concrete feedback on how you facilitated
Source: Agile Retrospectives
Prepare 3 flip chart papers titled 'Helped', 'Hindered', and 'Hypothesis' (suggestions for things to try out). Ask participants to help you grow and improve as a facilitator by writing you sticky notes and signing their initials so that you may ask questions later.

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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.