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All activities for GATHER DATA

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')

Mad Sad Glad (#7)

Collect events when team members felt mad, sad, or glad and find the sources
Source: Agile Retrospectives
Put up three posters labeled 'mad', 'sad', and 'glad' (or ">:), :(, :) alternatively). Team members write down one event per color coded card, when they've felt that way. When the time is up have everyone post their cards to the appropriate posters. Cluster the cards on each poster. Ask the group for cluster names.
Debrief by asking:
  • What's standing out? What's unexpected?
  • What was difficult about this task? What was fun?
  • What patterns do you see? What do they mean for you as a team?
  • Suggestions on how to continue?

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.

Story Oscars (#54)

The team nominates stories for awards and reflects on the winners
Source: Marin Todorov
Display all stories completed in the last iterations on a board. Create 3 award categories (i.e. boxes on the board):
  • Best story
  • Most annoying story
  • ... 3rd category invented by the team ...
Ask the team to 'nominate' stories by putting them in one of the award boxes.
For each category: Dot-vote and announce the winner. Ask the team why they think the user story won in this category and let the team reflect on the process of completing the tasks - what went good or wrong.

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.

Quartering - Identify boring stories (#64)

Categorize stories in 2 dimensions to identify boring ones
Source: Wayne D. Grant
Draw a big square and divide it into 2 columns. Label them 'Interesting' and 'Dull'. Let the team write down everything they did last iteration on stickies and put it into the appropriate column. Have them add a rough estimate of how long it took on each of their own stickies.
Now add a horizontal line so that your square has 4 quadrants. Label the top row 'Short' (took hours) and the bottom row 'Long' (took days). Rearrange the stickies in each column.
The long and dull stories are now nicely grouped to 'attack' in subsequent phases.

(Splitting the assessment into several steps, improves focus. You can adapt Quartering for lots of other 2-dimensional categorizations.)

Appreciative Inquiry (#65)

Lift everyone's spirit with positive questions
Source: Doug Bradbury, adapted for SW development by Corinna Baldauf
This is a round-based activity. In each round you ask the team a question, they write down their answers (gives everyone time to think) and then read them out to the others.
Questions proposed for Software Development teams:
  1. When was the last time you were really engaged / animated / productive? What did you do? What had happened? How did it feel?
  2. From an application-/code-perspective: What is the awesomest stuff you've built together? What makes it great?
  3. Of the things you built for this company, which has the most value? Why?
  4. When did you work best with the Product Owner? What was good about it?
  5. When was your collaboration best?
  6. What was your most valuable contribution to the developer community (of this company)? How did you do it?
  7. Leave your modesty at the door: What is the most valuable skill / character trait you contribute to the team? Examples?
  8. What is your team's most important trait? What sets you apart?

('Remember the Future' (#37) works well as the next step.)

Writing the Unspeakable (#75)

Write down what you can never ever say out loud
Source: Unknown, via Vanessa
Do you suspect that unspoken taboos are holding back the team? Consider this silent activity: Stress confidentiality ('What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas') and announce that all notes of this activity will be destroyed in the end. Only afterwards hand out a piece of paper to each participant to write down the biggest unspoken taboo in the company.
When everyone's done, they pass their paper to their left-hand neighbors. The neighbors read and may add comments. Papers are passed on and on until they return to their authors. One last read. Then all pages are ceremoniously shredded or (if you're outside) burned.

4 Ls - Loved, Learned, Lacked, Longed for (#78)

Explore what people loved, learned, lacked and longed for individually
Source: Mary Gorman & Ellen Gottesdiener probably via groupmap.com
Each person brainstorms individually for each of these 4 questions:
  • What I Loved
  • What I Learned
  • What I Lacked
  • What I Longed For
Collect the answers, either stickies on flip charts or in a digital tool if you're distributed. Form 4 subgroups, on for each L, read all notes, identify patterns and report their findings to the group. Use this as input for the next phase.

Value Stream Mapping (#79)

Draw a value stream map of your iteration process
Source: Paolo 'Nusco' Perrotta, inspired by Mary & Tom Poppendieck
Explain an example of Value Stream Mapping. (If you're unfamiliar with it, check out this video or this printable 1-pager.) Ask the team to draw a value stream map of their process from the point of view of a single user story. If necessary, ask them to break into small groups, and facilitate the process if they need it. Look at the finished map. Where are long delays, choke points and bottlenecks?

Repeat & Avoid (#80)

Brainstorm what to repeat and what behaviours to avoid
Source: Luis Goncalves
Head 2 flip charts with 'Repeat' and 'Avoid' respectively. The participants write issues for the columns on sticky notes - 1 per issue. You can also color code the stickies. Example categories are 'People', 'Process', 'Technology', ... Let everyone read out their notes and post them to the appropriate column. Are all issues unanimous?

Lines of Communication (#86)

Visualize how information flows in, out and around the team
Source: Tarmo Aidantausta
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?

Meeting Satisfaction Histogram (#87)

Create a histogram on how well ritual meetings went during the iteration
Source: Fanny Santos
Prepare a flip chart for each meeting that recurs every iteration, (e.g. the Scrum ceremonies) with a horizontal scale from 1 ('Did not meet expectations') to 5 ('Exceeds Expectations'). Each team member adds a sticky note based on their rating for each of these meetings. Let the team discuss why some meetings do not have a rating of 5.
You can discuss improvements as part of this activity or in a later activity such as Perfection Game (#20) or Plus \& Delta (#40).

Retro Wedding (#89)

Collect examples for something old, new, borrowed and blue
Source: Jordan Morris, via Todd Galloway
Analogue to an anglo-american wedding custom ask the team to give examples for the following categories:
  • Something Old
    Positive feedback or constructive criticism on established practice
  • Something New
    Positive feedback or constructive criticism on experiments in progress
  • Something Borrowed
    Tool/idea from another team, the Web or yourself for a potential experiment
  • Something Blue
    Any blocker or source of sadness
One example per sticky note. There's only one rule: If someone contributes to the 'Something Blue' column, s/he must also have a positive comment in at least 1 other column.

Everyone posts their stickies in the appropriate column on the board and describes it briefly.

Tell a Story with Shaping Words (#93)

Each participant tells a story about the last iteration that contains certain words
Source: Philip Rogers
Provide everyone with something to write down their story. Then introduce the shaping words, which influence the story to be written:
  • If the last iteration could have been better:
    You set a couple of shaping words, e.g. such as 'mad, sad, glad' or 'keep, drop, add'. Additionally they have to write their story in first person. This avoids blaming others.
  • If the last iteration was successful:
    The team can either choose their own set of words or you can provide random words to unleash the team's creativity.
Now each participant writes a story of no more than 100 words about last iteration. They have to use each shaping word at least once. Timebox this to 5-10 minutes.
When everyone's finished, they read out their stories. Afterwards lead a discussion about common themes of the stories.

#tweetmysprint (#97)

Produce the team's twitter timeline for the iteration
Source: Thomas Guest
Ask participants to write 3 or more tweets on sticky notes about the iteration they've just completed. Tweets could be on the iteration as a whole, on individual stories, a rant, or shameless self-promotion - as long as they are brief. Hash tags, emoticons, attached pictures, @usernames are all welcome. Allow ten minutes to write the tweets, then arrange them in a timeline and discuss themes, trends etc. Now invite participants to favorite, retweet and write replies to the tweets, again following up with discussion.

Laundry Day (#98)

Which things are clear and feel good and which feel vague and implicit?
Source: Katrin Dreyer
Use this activity if you suspect the team to make lots of unconscious decisions hardly ever questioning anything. You can figure out what things need to be talked about to get an explicit grasp of them.

You need:
  • about 3 metres of string as the clothesline
  • about 20 clothes pins
  • a white shirt (cut from paper)
  • a pair of dirty pants (cut from paper)
Hang up the clothesline and mark the middle, e.g. with a ribbon. Hang up the clean shirt on one side and the dirty pants on the other. Ask the team now to write items onto index cards for each of the categories. Hang up the notes with clothespins and re-arrange them into clusters. Now the team picks 2 'dirty' and 2 'clean' topics they want to talk about, e.g. by dot voting.

Movie Critic (#110)

Imagine your last iteration was a movie and write a review about it
Source: Isabel Corniche
Introduce the activity by asking: Imagine your last iteration was a movie and you had to write a review:
  • What was the genre of the movie (e.g. horror, drama, ...)?
  • What was the (central) theme? Describe in 2-3 words.
  • Was there a big twist (e.g. a bad guy)?
  • What was the ending like (e.g. happy-end, cliffhanger) and did you expect it?
  • What was your personal highlight?
  • Would you recommend it to a colleague?
Give each team member a piece of paper and 5 minutes to silently ponder the questions. In the meantime (or before the session) divide a flip chart in 7 columns headed with 'Genre', 'Theme', 'Twist', 'Ending', 'Expected?', 'Highlight', 'Recommend?'. When everyone has finished writing, fill out the flip chart while each participant reads out their notes.
Afterwards look at the finished table and lead a discussion about
  • What's standing out?
  • What patterns do you see? What do they mean for you as a team?
  • Suggestions on how to continue?

Genie in a Bottle (#116)

Playfully explore unmet needs
Source: Özer Özker & Anke Bartels
Present the following scenario to the participants: You have freed a genie from its bottle and you're granted the customary 3 wishes. What do you wish for? Please make
  • one wish for yourself
  • one wish for your team
  • one wish for all the people in the world
Cheating (i.e. wishing for more wishes or more genies) is not allowed!

Let everybody present their wishes. Optionally you can then dot-vote on the best or most appreciated wishes.

Hit the Headlines (#119)

Which sprint events were newsworthy?
Source: Thomas Guest
Collecting some news headlines in advance and take them to the retrospective to serve as examples. Try to gather a mixture of headlines: factual, opinion, review. Place the headlines where everyone can see them. Hand out sticky notes. Give team members 10 minutes to come up with their own headlines describing newsworthy aspects of the sprint. Encourage short, punchy headlines.
Stick the completed headlines to a whiteboard. If any cover the same news item, combine them. If any are unclear, ask the reporter for details. Vote on which news items to discuss and analyse in more depth.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (#121)

Collect what team members perceived as good, bad and non-optimal
Source: Manuel Küblböck
Put up three sections labeled ‘The Good’, ‘The Bad’ and ‘The Ugly’. Give everyone 5 minutes to note down one or more things per category from the last sprint. One aspect per post-it. When the time is up, have everyone stick their post-its to the appropriate labels. Cluster as you collect, if possible.

Find your Focus Principle (#123)

Discuss the 12 agile principles and pick one to work on
Source: Tobias Baier
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?

I like, I wish (#126)

Give positive, as well as non-threatening, constructive feedback
Source: Inspired by Satu Rekonen
Hang up two flip charts, one headed 'I like' and the other 'I wish'. Give the participants 5-10 minutes to silently write down what they liked about the past iteration and the team and what they wish was different (and how it should be different) – one point per sticky note. When everyone is finished, go around the circle and everybody reads out their 'I like' items and hangs them up. Repeat the same for the 'I wish' stickies. Either debrief or use the stickies as input for the next phase.

Delay Display (#127)

What's the current delay? And where are we going again?
Source: Christian Schafmeister
Draw a table with 3 columns. Head the first one 'Destination', the second one 'Delay' and the last one 'Announcement'.

Introduce the scenario: 'You are at a train station. Where is your train going?. (It can be anything, a fictional or a real 'place'.) How much of a delay does the train currently have? And what is the announcement? Why is there a delay? (This can be the 'real' reason or modeled after the typical announcements.)' Each team member fills out 3 sticky notes, 1 for each column. Going around the circle, each team member posts their notes and explains briefly, why they're going to destination X and why there's a delay (or not).

Trains and train delays are very familiar in Germany. Depending on your country and culture you might want to pick a different mode of transportation.

Learning Wish List (#128)

Create a list of learning objectives for the team
Source: Tim Ottinger
Hand out pens and paper. Each participant writes down what they wish their coworkers would learn (as a team - no need to name individual people). When everyone is done, collect all items on a board and count how often each one appears. Pick the top three things as learning objectives, unless the team's discussion leads somewhere else.

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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.