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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.

Analyze Stories (#5)

Walk through each story handled by the team and look for possible improvements
Source: Corinna Baldauf
Preparation: Collect all stories handled during the iteration and bring them along to the retrospective.
In a group (10 people max.) read out each story. For each one discuss whether it went well or not. If it went well, capture why. If not discuss what you could do differently in the future.
Variants: You can use this for support tickets, bugs or any combination of work done by the team.

Force Field Analysis (#115)

Analyse the factors that support and hinder a particular initiative
Source: Derek Neighbors, via Joel Edwards
State the topic that the team will explore in depth (deployment processes, peer-programming, Definition of Done, ...). Break the room into groups of 3-4 people each. Give them 5-7 minutes to list all contributing factors, drivers and actions that make up the topic. Go around the room. Each group reads 1 of their sticky notes and puts it up inside the force field until no group has any items left. Cluster or discard duplicates. Repeat the last 2 steps for factors that inhibit or restrain the topic from being successful or being as effective as it could be. Review all posted items. Add any that are missing.

To identify the most influential factors, everybody gets to 4 votes - 2 for contributing factors, 2 for inhibitors. Tally the votes and mark the top 2x2 factors with big arrows. Spend the last 15-20 mins of the session brainstorming ways to increase the top driving factors and decrease the top restraining factors.

Open Items List (#24)

Participants propose and sign up for actions
Source: Corinna Baldauf, inspired by this list
Prepare a flip chart with 3 columns titled 'What', 'Who', and 'Due'. Ask one participant after the other, what they want to do to advance the team. Write down the task, agree on a 'done by'-date and let them sign their name.
If someone suggests an action for the whole team, the proposer needs to get buy-in (and signatures) from the others.

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.