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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.

Like to like (#6)

Participants match quality cards to their own Start-Stop-Continue-proposals
Source: Agile Retrospectives
Preparation: ca. 20 quality cards, i.e. colored index cards with unique words such as fun, on time, clear, meaningful, awesome, dangerous, nasty
Each team member has to write at least 9 index cards: 3 each with things to start doing, keep doing and stop doing. Choose one person to be the first judge. The judge turns the first quality card. From their own cards each member chooses the best match for this word and places it face down on the table.The last one to choose has to take their card back on their hand. The judge shuffles all submitted cards, turns them one by one and rules the best fit = winning card. All submitted cards are discarded. The submitter of the winning card receives the quality card. The person left of the judge becomes the new judge.
Stop when everyone runs out of cards (6-9 rounds). Whoever has the most quality cards wins. Debrief by asking for takeaways.
(Game is based on 'Apples to Apples')

Braver (#145)

What does courage look like? What would the team do if they were bolder?
Source: Johanna Amlacher
Put up four posters with the following questions:
  • Which person in the team do you find courageous and how does courage show itself?
  • When have you felt insecure and wished you were braver?
  • What helps you to be brave?
  • What bold idea would you try as a team if you were 10 times bolder?
For each question do a round of:
  • 4 minutes of quiet time to answer the question on sticky notes
  • Ask people to read out and post their answers. (In a large group you can use 1-2-4-All to discuss answers in smaller groups first.)
  • Cluster similar answers
(We do it in several rounds to slowly warm up the participants to tackle the last question.)

After the last round, look at all the answers and facilitate a discussion. Ask participants what is standing out for them? What's unexpected? What patterns do they see? What do these patterns mean for them as a team?

Then ask the team to rate themselves on a scale of 1-10: How brave do they think they are? Followed by: What would be possible if they were one step higher on the scale?

Based on everything they’ve talked about, what would they like to try that’s somewhat bold yet safe enough?

Dot Voting - Keep, Drop, Add (#38)

Brainstorm what behaviors to keep, drop & add and pick the top initiatives
Source: Agile Retrospectives
Divide a flip chart into boxes headed with 'Keep', 'Drop' and 'Add'. 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.

Appreciations (#15)

Let team members appreciate each other and end positively
Source: Agile Retrospectives who took it from 'The Satir Model: Family Therapy and Beyond'
Start by giving a sincere appreciation of one of the participants. It can be anything they contributed: help to the team or you, a solved problem, ...Then invite others and wait for someone to work up the nerve. Close, when no one has talked for a minute.

(#)


Source:
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. He mentors advanced scrum masters and advanced product owners. Human, dad, nerd, contact improv & tango dancer. 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.