Everyone in the team states their goal for the retrospective, i.e. what they want out of the meeting. Examples of what participants might say:
I'm happy if we get 1 good action item
I want to talk about our argument about unit tests and agree on how we'll do it in the future
I'll consider this retro a success, if we come up with a plan to tidy up $obscureModule
[You can check if these goals were met if you close with activity #14.]
[The Meet - Core Protocol, which inspired this activity, also describes 'Alignment Checks': Whenever someone thinks the retrospective is not meeting people's needs they can ask for an Alignment Check. Then everyone says a number from 0 to 10 which reflects how much they are getting what they want. The person with the lowest number takes over to get nearer to what they want.]
Discuss the 12 agile principles and pick one to work on Source:
Print the principles of the Agile Manifesto onto cards, one principle per card. If the group is large, split it and provide each smaller group with their own set of the principles.
Explain that you want to order the principles according to the following question: 'How much do we need to improve regarding this principle?'. In the end the principle that is the team's weakest spot should be on top of the list.
Start with a random principle, discuss what it means and how much need for improvement you see, then place it in the middle. Pick the next principle, discuss what it means and sort it relatively to the other principles. You can propose a position depending on the previous discussion and move from there by comparison. Repeat this until all cards are sorted.
Now consider the card on top: This is presumeably the most needed and most urgent principle you should work on. How does the team feel about it? Does everyone still agree? What are the reasons there is the biggest demand for change here? Should you compare to the second or third most important issue again? If someone would now rather choose the second position, why?
Divide a flip chart into boxes headed with 'Start', 'Continue' and 'Stop'. Ask your participants to write concrete proposals for each category - 1 idea per index card. Let them write in silence for a few minutes. Let everyone read out their notes and post them to the appropriate category. Lead a short discussion on what the top 20% beneficial ideas are. Vote on it by distributing dots or X's with a marker, e.g. 1, 2, and 3 dots for each person to distribute. The top 2 or 3 become your action items.
A good debriefing deepens understanding, learning and sharing. Preparation: Download and assemble the Debriefing Cube and cards.
During the retrospective, roll the cube. Then draw a card from the category it shows and use it to prompt a discussion. Repeat as time permits.
This will broaden your debriefing options and is especially great for groups without a facilitator to enable them to effectively debrief on their own.