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Sacred Cow (#131)

What is the organization clinging to that doesn't make sense anymore?
Source: Ani Angelini
This activity is great for shaking up routine in places that do things the way they've always done them. Introduce it by telling the story of the sacred cows, preferably the long epic version here. Here's the gist:

'In some cultures cows were sacred, never to be killed for food or any other reason. The cows roamed free, leading a happy life and usually died of old age. With rare exceptions such as one fateful spring in a city far, far away ...

This particular city came under siege by a superior enemy force. All the citizens withdrew into the safety of the city walls but there was nothing going in or out of the city. Days turned into weeks and the citizens grew hungry and desperate. There was hardly any food left. They did, however, have a lot of sacred cows. Unfortunately, the idea of killing a sacred cow was taboo and also a horrible crime.

But these were not ordinary times. If the attackers were to succeed they would certainly kill the cows. So wasn’t it a better if the soldiers ate some of the cows to defend the town and maybe safe the people and the rest of the cows? In the end, the town had to re-evaluate their stance on cows. They thought and acted in ways that were unthinkable before. And it worked. They saved their town and the people in it. Not all the cows, though.’

Hand out sticky notes and ask the participants to write down the sacred cows of their organisation: Things they have always done a certain way without ever asking why.

Go around the group and invite the team to describe their ‘cows’. For big groups, it works best if they break into smaller groups for the discussion and share conclusions later with everyone.

Now it’s time to grab the bull by its horns. What can you do to slaughter a sacred cow? Every person / group proposes 2-3 actions / experiments. When all suggestions are on the table everyone has to sign at least one initiative as a supporter. Initiatives without supporters are discarded.

To close the retrospective, invite the group to gather in a round. Set the timer to 10 minutes and prepare a token. Ask them to share what they've gotten from the retrospective. Sharing is voluntary: if someone wants to share they have to ask for the token.


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

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.