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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.

Repeat & Avoid (#80)

Brainstorm what to repeat and what behaviours to avoid
Source: Luis Goncalves
Head 2 flip charts with 'Repeat' and 'Avoid' respectively. The participants write issues for the columns on sticky notes - 1 per issue. You can also color code the stickies. Example categories are 'People', 'Process', 'Technology', ... Let everyone read out their notes and post them to the appropriate column. Are all issues unanimous?

Election Manifesto (#105)

Different parties present manifestos for change. Who will get your vote?
Source: Thomas Guest
Is there an election coming up in your country? Use it as a back drop for your team to convince each other of their change initiatives.

Ask the participants to split into political parties with 2 or 3 members. For 20 minutes, each party will work on a manifesto for change. What isn't working? How would they improve things?
Afterwards the parties meet again and their leaders present their manifestos. Be prepared for tough questions and heckling!
Now plan for a better world! Summarise the manifestos with sticky notes, one color per party. What do the parties agree on? Which promises are unrealistic and which can you achieve?

Chaos Cocktail Party (#61)

Actively identify, discuss, clarify and prioritize a number of actions
Source: Suzanne Garcia via Malte Foegen
Everyone writes one card with an action that they think is important to do - the more specific (SMART), the better. Then team members go around and chat about the cards like in a cocktail party. Every chat pair discusses the actions on their two cards. Stop the chatting after 1 minute. Each chat pair splits 5 points between the two cards. More points go to the more important action. Organize 3 to 5 rounds of chats (depending on group size). At the end everyone adds up the points on their card. In the end the cards are ranked by points and the team decides how much can be done in the next iteration, pulling from the top.

Addendum: In many settings you might want to randomly switch the cards in the beginning and between discussions. In this way, neither of the point splitting parties has a stake in which of the cards gets more points. This is an idea by Dr. Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan via Paul Tevis

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.