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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.

Learning Matrix (#9)

Team members brainstorm in 4 categories to quickly list issues
Source: Agile Retrospectives
After discussing the data from Phase 2 show a flip chart with 4 quadrants labeled ':)', ':(', 'Idea!', and 'Appreciation'. Hand out sticky notes.
  • The team members can add their input to any quadrant. One thought per sticky note.
  • Cluster the notes.
  • Hand out 6-10 dots for people to vote on the most important issues.
This list is your input for Phase 4.

Speed Dating (#26)

Each team member explores one topic in depth in a series of 1:1 talks
Source: Thorsten Kalnin
Each participant writes down one topic they want to explore, i.e. something they'd like to change. Then form pairs and spread across the room. Each pair discusses both topics and ponders possible actions - 5 minutes per participant (topic) - one after the other. After 10 minutes the pairs break up to form new pairs. Continue until everyone has talked to everyone else.
If the group has an odd number of members, the facilitator is part of a pair but the partner gets all 10 minutes for their topic.

(The way to make all the pairings come out even is the following: Form two rows facing each other. This is pairing one. Pick one person. This person's position is fixed the entire time. Everybody else rotates one spot after each pairing.)

Systemic Consensus (#103)

Check for resistance instead of approval
Source: Georg Paulus, Siegfried Schrotta \& Erich Visotschnig via Corinna Baldauf
Do you have a hotly debated matter with several possible ways to go and the team can't agree on any of them? Instead of trying to find a majority for a way that will create winners and losers, try what happens if you turn the decision inside out:
Draw a table with the voters in the left-most column and proposals on top. Now everybody has to fill in their resistance towards each proposal. 0 means 'no resistance - this is what I want', up to 10, meaning 'shoot me now'. Give the least hated solution a try.

Feedback Door - Smilies (#23)

Gauge participants' satisfaction with the retro in minimum time using smilies
Source: Boeffi
Draw a ':)', ':|', and ':(' on a sheet of paper and tape it against the door. When ending the retrospective, ask your participants to mark their satisfaction with the session with an 'x' below the applicable smily.

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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.