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.]
Visualize how information flows in, out and around the team Source:
Is information not flowing as well as it needs to? Do you suspect bottlenecks? Visualize the ways information flows to find starting points for improvements. If you want to look at one specific flow (e.g. product requirements, impediments, ...) check out Value Stream Mapping (#79). For messier situations try something akin to Cause-Effect-Diagrams (#25). Look at the finished drawing. Where are delays or dead ends?
Find the source of problems whose origins are hard to pinpoint and lead to endless discussion Source:
Write the problem you want to explore on a sticky note and put it in the middle of a whiteboard. Find out why that is a problem by repeatedly asking 'So what?'. Find out the root causes by repeatedly asking 'Why (does this happen)?' Document your findings by writing more stickies and showing causal relations with arrows. Each sticky can have more than one reason and more than one consequence Vicious circles are usually good starting points for actions. If you can break their bad influence, you can gain a lot.
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.
Let team members appreciate each other and end positively Source:
Agile Retrospectives who took it from 'The Satir Model: Family Therapy and Beyond'
Start by giving a sincere appreciation of one of the participants. It can be anything they contributed: help to the team or you, a solved problem, ...Then invite others and wait for someone to work up the nerve. Close, when no one has talked for a minute.