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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.

Writing the Unspeakable (#75)

Write down what you can never ever say out loud
Source: Unknown, via Vanessa
Do you suspect that unspoken taboos are holding back the team? Consider this silent activity: Stress confidentiality ('What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas') and announce that all notes of this activity will be destroyed in the end. Only afterwards hand out a piece of paper to each participant to write down the biggest unspoken taboo in the company.
When everyone's done, they pass their paper to their left-hand neighbors. The neighbors read and may add comments. Papers are passed on and on until they return to their authors. One last read. Then all pages are ceremoniously shredded or (if you're outside) burned.

Park Bench (#41)

Group discussion with varying subsets of participants
Source: Diana Larsen
Place at least 4 and at most 6 chairs in a row so that they face the group. Explain the rules:
  • Take a bench seat when you want to contribute to the discussion
  • One seat must always be empty
  • When the last seat is taken, someone else must leave and return to the audience
Get everything going by sitting on the 'bench' and wondering aloud about something you learned in the previous phase until someone joins. End the activity when discussion dies down.
This is a variant of 'Fish Bowl'. It's suited for groups of 10-25 people.

Impediments Cup (#88)

Impediments compete against each other in a World Cup style
Source: Pascal Martin, inspired by Boris Gloger's 'Bubble Up'
Prepare a flip chart with a playing schedule for quarter-final, semi-final and final. All participants write down actions on a post-it until you have eight actions. Shuffle them and randomly place them on the playing schedule.
The team now has to vote for one of the two actions in each pair. Move the winning action to the next round until you have a winner of the impediments cup.

If you want to take on more than one or two actions you can play the match for third place.

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. 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.