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Plan-ID:
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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.

Timeline (#4)

Participants write down significant events and order them chronologically
Source: Agile Retrospectives
Divide into groups with 5 or less people each. Distribute cards and markers. Give participants 10min to note down memorable and / or personally significant events. It's about gathering many perspectives. Consensus would be detrimental. All participants post their cards and order them. It's okay to add cards on the fly. Analyze.
Color Coding can help to see patterns, e.g.:
  • Emotions
  • Events (technical, organization, people, ...)
  • Function (tester, developer, manager, ...)

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.

Landscape Diagram (#100)

Assess action items based on how clear they are and take your pick
Source: Diana Larsen adapted it from Human Systems Dynamics Institute
This activity is helpful when a team is facing an ambiguous, volatile, uncertain or complex set of problems and has many suggested action items to choose from.

Draw a Landscape Diagram, i.e. an x-axis labeled 'Certainty about approach' and a y-axis labeled 'Agreement on issue'. Both go from low certainty / agreement in their mutual origin to high towards the top / right. For each action item ask 'How much agreement do we have that solving this problem would have a great beneficial impact? How certain are we about the first steps toward a solution?' Place the note on the diagram accordingly.
When all actions are placed, shortly discuss the 'map' you created. Which actions will give the greatest benefit in the next iteration? Which are more long term?

Choose 2 actions from the simple / ordered area of the map or 1 action from the complex area.

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.