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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.

Back to the Future (#141)

You take the DeLorean back to the beginning of the project
Source: Dominik Panzer
This activity is great for looking at a longer period of time. Put on your storyteller hat and ask your team to imagine the following scenario:

"You are sitting relaxed at your computer working, when suddenly there is a loud bang and a huge cloud of dust is in your room. You cough and as the dust settles, you realize that a car has driven through the wall of your house. You approach cautiously to see what has happened. The car looks futuristic and has gullwing doors. You wipe the dust off the windshield and realize: it's Marty McFly with his DeLorean. He seems unharmed, but is unconscious. You sense your chance and gently push Marty into the passenger seat. The time machine seems to be undamaged. You risk it and travel back to the beginning of your project: Greenfield. Not a single line of code has been written yet. Now you have the possibility to start again from scratch:
  • What do you definitely keep?
  • What do you do differently this time?
  • What were your biggest learnings?"
Give everybody 7 minutes to write down their ideas on sticky notes – 1 idea per sticky. When the time is up, the first person briefly presents their stickies for the first category and posts them on the board for this category. Then the second person presents and so on. Cluster as you go along. What themes do appear?

Repeat for the other two categories.

BYOSM - Build your own Scrum Master (#94)

The team assembles the perfect SM & takes different points of view
Source: Fabian Schiller
Draw a Scrum Master on a flipchart with three sections on him/her: brain, heart, stomach.
  • Round 1: 'What properties does your perfect SM display?'
    Ask them to silently write down one trait per note. Let participants explain their notes and put them on the drawing.
  • Round 2: 'What does the perfect SM have to know about you as a team so that he/she can work with you well?'
  • Round 3: 'How can you support your SM to do a brilliant job?'
You can adapt this activity for other roles, e.g. BYOProductOwner.

SMART Goals (#13)

Formulate a specific and measurable plan of action
Source: Agile Retrospectives
Introduce SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely) and examples for SMART vs not so smart goals, e.g.'We'll study stories before pulling them by talking about them with the product owner each Wednesday at 9am' vs. 'We'll get to know the stories before they are in our sprint backlog'.
Form groups around the issues the team wants to work on. Each group identifies 1-5 concrete steps to reach the goal. Let each group present their results. All participants should agree on the 'SMART-ness' of the goals. Refine and confirm.

Feedback Door - Numbers (ROTI) (#14)

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.

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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.