Make long-term progress visible by storing impediments in a time capsule Source:
It’s hard to see progress when you chip away at your challenges but in hindsight the improvements are impressive. Set your team up to realize how much it has improved in half a year. This activity will also broaden the team’s perspective to bigger topics beyond everyday improvements.
Caution: Do not use this activity if you suspect there are big unspoken issues.
Hand out pens and fancy paper. Tell participants to complete the following two sentences:
’I think our biggest impediment right now is: …’
’What I want to try to get rid of it: …’
Afterwards, each person reads out their impediment and plan of action. Some issues and plans might stir discussion. If needed, use Lean Coffee (#51) to dot-vote and structure which issues to discuss. If somebody wants to adapt their plan of action or if the entire team wants to commit to an action item, that’s okay. (But nobody can tell anyone else that their impediment isn’t “valid”.)
When the discussion dies down, put all papers into the bottle and close it well. Now bury it or put it into the back of your cabinet. Put a reminder in your calendar in 6 months time.
When you open the bottle with the team in half a year, check which impediments are gone. How did you do it? With the action plan you’d written down or something else? Celebrate!
Go to the nearest park and wander about and just talk Source:
Is there nice weather outside? Then why stay cooped up inside, when walking fills your brain with oxygen and new ideas 'off the trodden track'. Get outside and take a walk in the nearest park. Talk will naturally revolve around work. This is a nice break from routine when things run relatively smoothly and you don't need visual documentation to support discussion. Mature teams can easily spread ideas and reach consensus even in such an informal setting.
Learn how to raise constructive criticism with your team mates in a trusting and positive way Source:
Try this activity to help teams that are only ever saying nice things to each other and seem reluctant to raise concerns about each other. If they are always keeping the peace, they miss growth opportunities and issues may fester. Feedback Sandwich is a way to learn how to give and receive potentially critical feedback. It goes like this:
Team members sit in a circle and take turns receiving the feedback. The team member who's turn it is is not allowed to say anything until each person finishes their 3 points. Once finished, the person receiving the feedback can only say 'Thank You'. Each takes turns receiving the feedback until all team members have participated.
Several days before the retro, you send out the following information to team members so that they can prepare: 'Think about the below questions for each of your team mates and prepare an answer before the session:
What is something you really admire/respect about this person or something you think they do really well in a professional capacity?
What is something you think is a weakness for this person? (Perhaps something they don't do so well, need to work on etc.)
What is something you feel this person shows promise in, but could perhaps work on a little more to truly shine at it?
These questions are quite open in that you can draw on both technical and soft skills for each team member. So it might be that you choose to highlight a specific technical strength/weakness, or you might comment on someone's professional conduct, approachability, teaching skills, communication skills, etc.
Disclaimer: This activity is not about being nasty, or mean. It's intended to help the team get to know each other better and to improve on how we work individually and as a group. The idea is not to cause offence, but rather to understand how your team sees you and perhaps take something away to work on. It is up to you what you take away from it, you are free to ignore people's suggestions if you do not agree with them. Please deliver your feedback kindly and remember to thank your team for their feedback about you.'
What is the organization clinging to that doesn't make sense anymore? Source:
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.