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Timeline (#4)

Participants write down significant events and order them chronologically
Source: Agile Retrospectives
Divide into groups with 5 or less people each. Distribute cards and markers. Give participants 10min to note down memorable and / or personally significant events. It's about gathering many perspectives. Consensus would be detrimental. All participants post their cards and order them. It's okay to add cards on the fly. Analyze.
Color Coding can help to see patterns, e.g.:
  • Emotions
  • Events (technical, organization, people, ...)
  • Function (tester, developer, manager, ...)

Analyze Stories (#5)

Walk through each story handled by the team and look for possible improvements
Source: Corinna Baldauf
Preparation: Collect all stories handled during the iteration and bring them along to the retrospective.
In a group (10 people max.) read out each story. For each one discuss whether it went well or not. If it went well, capture why. If not discuss what you could do differently in the future.
Variants: You can use this for support tickets, bugs or any combination of work done by the team.

Like to like (#6)

Participants match quality cards to their own Start-Stop-Continue-proposals
Source: Agile Retrospectives
Preparation: ca. 20 quality cards, i.e. colored index cards with unique words such as fun, on time, clear, meaningful, awesome, dangerous, nasty
Each team member has to write at least 9 index cards: 3 each with things to start doing, keep doing and stop doing. Choose one person to be the first judge. The judge turns the first quality card. From their own cards each member chooses the best match for this word and places it face down on the table.The last one to choose has to take their card back on their hand. The judge shuffles all submitted cards, turns them one by one and rules the best fit = winning card. All submitted cards are discarded. The submitter of the winning card receives the quality card. The person left of the judge becomes the new judge.
Stop when everyone runs out of cards (6-9 rounds). Whoever has the most quality cards wins. Debrief by asking for takeaways.
(Game is based on 'Apples to Apples')

Speedboat / Sailboat (#19)

Analyze what forces push you forward and what pulls you back
Source: Luke Hohmann, found at Mike Griffiths
Draw a speedboat onto a flip chart paper. Give it a strong motor as well as a heavy anchor. Team members silently write on sticky notes what propelled the team forward and what kept it in place. One idea per note. Post the stickies motor and anchor respectively. Read out each one and discuss how you can increase 'motors' and cut 'anchors'.

Variation: Some people add an iceberg in the back of the image. The iceberg represents obstacles they already see coming.

Speedboat / Sailboat (#19)

Analyze what forces push you forward and what pulls you back
Source: Luke Hohmann, found at Mike Griffiths
Draw a speedboat onto a flip chart paper. Give it a strong motor as well as a heavy anchor. Team members silently write on sticky notes what propelled the team forward and what kept it in place. One idea per note. Post the stickies motor and anchor respectively. Read out each one and discuss how you can increase 'motors' and cut 'anchors'.

Variation: Some people add an iceberg in the back of the image. The iceberg represents obstacles they already see coming.

Proud & Sorry (#33)

What are team members proud or sorry about?
Source: Agile Retrospectives
Put up two posters labeled 'proud' and 'sorry'. Team members write down one instance per sticky note. When the time is up have everyone read out their note and post it to the appropriate poster.
Start a short conversation e.g. by asking:
  • Did anything surprise you?
  • What patterns do you see? What do they mean for you as a team?

Agile Self-Assessment (#35)

Assess where you are standing with a checklist
Source: Corinna Baldauf
Print out a checklist that appeals to you, e.g.:Go through them in the team and discuss where you stand and if you're on the right track.
This is a good activity after an iteration without major events.

Empty the Mailbox (#47)

Look at notes collected during the iteration
Source: Nick Oostvogels
Set up a 'retrospective mailbox' at the beginning of the iteration. Whenever something significant happens or someone has an idea for improvement, they write it down and 'post' it. (Alternatively the 'mailbox' can be a visible place. This can spark discussion during the iteration.)
Go through the notes and discuss them.
A mailbox is great for long iterations and forgetful teams.

Lean Coffee (#51)

Use the Lean Coffee format for a focused discussion of the top topics
Source: Original description and in action
Say how much time you set aside for this phase, then explain the rules of Lean Coffee for retrospectives:
  • Everyone writes down topics they’d like to discuss - 1 topic per sticky
  • Put the stickies up on a whiteboard or flipchart. The person who wrote it describes the topic in 1 or 2 sentences. Group stickies that are about the same topic
  • Everyone dot-votes for the 2 topics they want to discuss
  • Order the stickies according to votes
  • Start with the topic of highest interest
  • Set a timer for 5 minutes. When the timer beeps, everyone gives a quick thumbs up or down. Majority of thumbs up: The topic gets another 5 minutes. Majority of thumbs down: Start the next topic.
Stop when the allotted time is over.

Expectations (#62)

What can others expect of you? What can you expect of them?
Source: Valerie Santillo
Give each team member a piece of paper. The lower half is blank. The top half is divided into two sections:
  • What my team mates can expect from me
  • What I expect from my team mates
Each person fills out the top half for themselves. When everyone is finished, they pass their paper to the left and start reviewing the sheet that was passed to them. In the lower half they write what they personally expect from that person, sign it and pass it on.
When the papers made it around the room, take some time to review and share observations.