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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.

Quartering - Identify boring stories (#64)

Categorize stories in 2 dimensions to identify boring ones
Source: Wayne D. Grant
Draw a big square and divide it into 2 columns. Label them 'Interesting' and 'Dull'. Let the team write down everything they did last iteration on stickies and put it into the appropriate column. Have them add a rough estimate of how long it took on each of their own stickies.
Now add a horizontal line so that your square has 4 quadrants. Label the top row 'Short' (took hours) and the bottom row 'Long' (took days). Rearrange the stickies in each column.
The long and dull stories are now nicely grouped to 'attack' in subsequent phases.

(Splitting the assessment into several steps, improves focus. You can adapt Quartering for lots of other 2-dimensional categorizations.)

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.

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.

(#)


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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.