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Current Plan ID:
All activities for SET THE STAGE

ESVP (#1)

How do participants feel at the retro: Explorer, Shopper, Vacationer, or Prisoner?
Source: Agile Retrospectives
Prepare a flipchart with areas for E, S, V, and P. Explain the concept:
  • Explorer: Eager to dive in and research what did and didn't work and how to improve.
  • Shopper: Positive attitude. Happy if one good things comes out.
  • Vacationer: Reluctant to actively take part but the retro beats the regular work.
  • Prisoner: Only attend because they (feel they) must.
Take a poll (anonymously on slips of paper). Count out the answers and keep track on the flipchart for all to see. If trust is low, deliberately destroy the votes afterwards to ensure privacy. Ask what people make of the data. If there's a majority of Vacationers or Prisoners consider using the retro to discuss this finding.

Weather Report (#2)

Participants mark their 'weather' (mood) on a flipchart
Source: Agile Retrospectives
Prepare a flipchart with a drawing of storm, rain, clouds and sunshine.Each participant marks their mood on the sheet.

Check In - Quick Question (#3)

Ask one question that each participant answers in turn
Source: Agile Retrospectives
In round-robin each participant answers the same question (unless they say 'I pass'). Sample questions:
  • In one word - What do you need from this retrospective?
  • Address concerns, e.g. by writing it down and setting it - physically and mentally - aside
  • In this retrospective - If you were a car, what kind would it be?
  • What emotional state are you in (e.g. 'glad', 'mad', 'sad', 'scared'?)

Avoid evaluating comments such as 'Great'. 'Thanks' is okay.

Check In - Amazon Review (#18)

Review the iteration on Amazon. Don't forget the star rating!
Source: Christian Heiß
Each team member writes a short review with:
  • Title
  • Content
  • Star rating (5 stars is the best)
Everyone reads out their review. Record the star ratings on a flip chart.
Can span whole retrospective by also asking what is recommended about the iteration and what not.

Temperature Reading (#22)

Participants mark their 'temperature' (mood) on a flipchart
Source: Unknown
Prepare a flipchart with a drawing of a thermometer from freezing to body temperature to hot. Each participant marks their mood on the sheet.

Check In - Draw the Iteration (#31)

Participants draw some aspect of the iteration
Source: Corinna Baldauf, adapted from Thorsten Kalnin and Olivier Gourment
Distribute index cards and markers. Set a topic, e.g. one of the following:
  • How did you feel during the iteration?
  • What was the most remarkable moment?
  • What was the biggest problem?
  • What did you long for?
Ask the team members to draw their answer. Post all drawings on a whiteboard. For each drawing let people guess what it means, before the artist explains it.
Metaphors open new viewpoints and create a shared understanding.

Emoticon Project Gauge (#32)

Help team members express their feelings about a project and address root causes early
Source: Andrew Ciccarelli
Prepare a flipchart with faces expressing various emotions such as:
  • shocked / surprised
  • nervous / stressed
  • unempowered / constrained
  • confused
  • happy
  • mad
  • overwhelmed
Let each team member choose how they feel about the project. This is a fun and effective way to surface problems early. You can address them in the subsequent phases.

Appreciative Goal (#36)

State an affirmative goal for the session
Source: Diana Larsen
Concentrate on positive aspects instead of problems by setting an affirmative goal, e.g.
  • Let's find ways to amplify our strengths in process and teamwork
  • Let's find out how to extend our best uses of engineering practices and methods
  • We'll look at our best working relationships and find ways to build more relationships like that
  • We'll discover where we added the most value during our last iteration to increase the value we'll add during the next

Postcards (#42)

Participants pick a postcard that represents their thoughts / feelings
Source: Corinna Baldauf
Bring a stack of diverse postcards - at least 4 four times as many as participants. Scatter them around the room and instruct team members to pick the postcard that best represents their view of the last iteration. After choosing they write down three keywords describing the postcard, i.e. iteration, on index cards. In turn everyone hangs up their post- and index cards and describes their choice.

Take a Stand - Opening (#43)

Participants take a stand, indicating their satisfaction with the iteration
Source: Corinna Baldauf, inspired by Christoph Pater
Create a big scale (i.e. a long line) on the floor with masking tape. Mark one end as 'Great' and the other as 'Bad'. Let participants stand on the scale according to their satisfaction with the last iteration. Psychologically, taking a stand physically is different from just saying something. It's more 'real'.
You can reuse the scale if you close with activity #44.

Why Retrospectives? (#46)

Ask 'Why do we do retrospectives?'
Source: Pete Roessler
Go back to the roots and start into the retrospective by asking 'Why do we do this?' Write down all answers for everyone to see. You might be surprised.

Constellation - Opening (#52)

Let the participants affirm or reject statements by moving around
Source: Lyssa Adkins via Luis Goncalves
Place a circle or sphere in the middle of a free space. Let the team gather around it. Explain that the circle is the center of approval: If they agree to a statement they should move towards it, if they don't, they should move as far outwards as their degree of disagreement. Now read out statements, e.g.
  • I feel I can talk openly in this retrospective
  • I am satisfied with the last iteration
  • I am happy with the quality of our code
  • I think our continuous integration process is mature
Watch the constellations unfold. Afterwards ask which constellations were surprising.
This can also be a closing activity (#53).

Happiness Histogram (#59)

Create a happiness histogram to get people talking
Source: Mike Lowery via Niko Felger
Prepare a flip chart with a horizontal scale from 1 (Unhappy) to 5 (Happy).
  • One team member after the other places their sticky note according to their happiness and comment on their placement
  • If anything noteworthy comes from the reason, let the team choose to either discuss it there and then or postpone it for later in the retrospective
  • If someone else has the same score, they place their sticky above the placed one, effectively forming a histogram

3 for 1 - Opening (#70)

Check satisfaction with iteration results, communication & mood all at once
Source: Judith Andresen
Prepare a flip chart with a co-ordinate plane on it. The Y-axis is 'Satisfaction with iteration result'. The X-axis is 'Number of times we coordinated'. Ask each participant to mark where their satisfaction and perceived touch points intersect - with an emoticon showing their mood (not just a dot).Discuss surprising variances and extreme moods.
(Vary the X-axis to reflect current team topics, e.g. 'Number of times we pair programmed'.)

Round of Admiration (#76)

Participants express what they admire about one another
Source: Judith Andresen
Start a round of admiration by facing your neighbour and stating 'What I admire most about you is ...' Then your neighbour says what she admires about her neighbour and so on until the last participants admires you. Feels great, doesn't it?

Outcome Expectations (#81)

Everyone states what they want out of the retrospective
Source: Inspired by Jim & Michele McCarthy
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.]

Three Words (#82)

Everybody sums up the last iteration in 3 words
Source: Yurii Liholat
Ask everyone to describe the last iteration with just 3 words. Give them a minute to come up with something, then go around the team. This helps people recall the last iteration so that they have some ground to start from.

Last Retro's Actions Table (#84)

Assess how to continue with last retro's actions
Source: Sven Winkler
Create a table with 5 columns. The first column lists last retro's action items. The other columns are headed 'More of', 'Keep doing', 'Less of' and 'Stop doing'. Participants place 1 sticky note per row into the column that states how they want to proceed with that action. Afterwards facilitate a short discussion for each action, e.g. asking:
  • Why should we stop doing this?
  • Why is it worth to go further?
  • Are our expectations satisfied?
  • Why do opinions vary that much?

Greetings from the Iteration (#85)

Each team member writes a postcard about last iteration
Source: Filipe Albero Pomar
Remind the team what a postcard looks like:
  • An image on the front,
  • a message on one half of the back,
  • the address and stamp on the other half.
Distribute blank index cards and tell the team they have 10 minutes to write a postcard to a person the whole team knows (i.e. an ex-colleague). When the time is up, collect and shuffle the cards before re-distributing them. Team members take turns to read out loud the postcards they got.

Agile Values Cheer Up (#90)

Remind each other of agile values you displayed
Source: Jesus Mendez
Draw 4 large bubbles and write one of the agile core values into each:
  1. Individuals and their interactions
  2. Delivering working software
  3. Customer collaboration
  4. Responding to change
Ask participants to write down instances when their colleagues have displayed one of the values - 1 cheerful sticky note per example. In turn, let everyone post their note in the corresponding bubble and read them out loud. Rejoice in how you embody agile core values :)

Who said it? (#106)

Attribute quotes to team members and situations
Source: Beccy Stafford
Before the retro, spend some time looking through email threads, chat logs, ticket discussions, and the like. Collect quotes from the last iteration: Funny quotes, or quotes which without context sound a little odd. Write them down with the name of the person who said them.

Read out the quotes at the beginning of the retro, and ask the team to guess who said it - the source may not self-identify! Often the team will not only know who said it, but also talk about what was going on at the time.

Unlikely Superheros (#107)

Imagine yourself as a superhero! What is your superpower?
Source: Pietari Kettunen
Each participant creates a superhero version of themselves based on how they see themselves in the team / project - Complete with appropriate superpowers, weaknesses and possibly an arch-nemesis.

Know your neighbour - Opening (#108)

How did your right neighbour feel during the iteration
Source: Fabián Lewkowicz
Ask each team member to try to briefly describe how their neighbour to the right felt during the iteration. Their neighbour confirms or corrects their guess.
Once all participants said what they think about how their teammates felt, you get an idea of how connected they are, how the communication is flowing in your team and if people are aware of the feelings expressed, in some way, by others.

Consider closing with activity #109.

Give me a face (#114)

Participants show how they feel by drawing a face on a tangerine
Source: Afagh Zadeh
Each team member gets a sharpie and a tangerine with a sticky note asking: 'How do you feel? Please give me a face'. After all are done drawing you go around and compare the works of art and emotions. It's a light-hearted way to set the stage.

Positive and True (#122)

Boost everyones energy with tailored questions
Source: Veronika Kotrba and Ralph Miarka, adapted from Nancy Kline
Ask your neighbor a question that is tailored to get a response that is positive, true and about their own experiences, e.g.
  • What have you done really well in the last iteration?
  • What is something that makes you really happy?
  • What were you most happy about yesterday?
Then your neighbor asks their neighbor on the other side the same question and so on until everyone has answered and asked.

This will give everyone a boost and lead to better results.

String Theory (#129)

Surface shared traits and mutual interests among team members
Source: Eben Halford
This is an excellent activity for newly formed teams of 6 to 15 members. It speeds up team building by sharing traits and interests so that team members can build closer bonds than possible with just work-related stuff.

Have the team form a circle with everyone looking inwards. Leave about a foot of space between people. Depending on what you want to stress with this activity, you can ask colleagues that usually work remotely to stand about 5 feet away from the circle.

Hand a ball of yarn to a random player and tell them to hold on tight to the end of the yarn with their non-dominant hand and the ball in the dominant one. The yarn holder starts the game by saying something about themselves that is not work-related such as 'I have a daughter' or 'I play the guitar'. If this statement is true for any other team member they raise their hand and say 'Yes, that's me'. The yarn holder passes the ball to the person who raised their hand. If there's more than one, the yarn holder can choose one. If no one shares the statement the yarn holder has to make another statement.

The person who received the ball of yarn holds on to the thread and tautens it. This is the first connection in a network of shared traits. The new yarn holder now makes a statement about themselves, passes the ball while holding on to their part of the yarn and so on.

The game ends when time is up OR everybody has at least two connections OR the yarn runs out.

You can debrief with some of these questions:
  • What did you notice?
  • If you've got remote people: How does it feel to stand apart? How does it feel to have someone stand apart?
  • How do you feel about few (or no) connections?
  • What is it like to see this web of connections?
  • Can you be a team without this web?
  • What would happen if someone let go of their threads? How would it affect the team?
  • Is there anything you will do differently at work now?

This activity is only the first part of a longer game.

(#)


Source:
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 Wall-Skills.com.

Co-developed by Timon Fiddike

As developer, product owner, scrum master and agile coach, Timon has been a Retromat user and fan for more than three years. He had quite a few feature ideas. In 2016 he started to build some of those features himself. You can email him or follow him on Twitter.