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All activities for GENERATE INSIGHTS

5 Whys (#8)

Drill down to the root cause of problems by repeatedly asking 'Why?'
Source: Agile Retrospectives
Divide the participants into small groups (<= 4 people) and give each group one of the top identified issues. Instructions for the group:
  • One person asks the others 'Why did that happen?' repeatedly to find the root cause or a chain of events
  • Record the root causes (often the answer to the 5th 'Why?')
Let the groups share their findings.

Learning Matrix (#9)

Team members brainstorm in 4 categories to quickly list issues
Source: Agile Retrospectives
After discussing the data from Phase 2 show a flip chart with 4 quadrants labeled ':)', ':(', 'Idea!', and 'Appreciation'. Hand out sticky notes.
  • The team members can add their input to any quadrant. One thought per sticky note.
  • Cluster the notes.
  • Hand out 6-10 dots for people to vote on the most important issues.
This list is your input for Phase 4.

Brainstorming / Filtering (#10)

Generate lots of ideas and filter them against your criteria
Source: Agile Retrospectives
Lay out the rules of brainstorming, and the goal: To generate lots of new ideas which will be filtered after the brainstorming.
  • Let people write down their ideas for 5-10 minutes
  • Go around the table repeatedly always asking one idea each, until all ideas are on the flip chart
  • Now ask for filters (e.g. cost, time investment, uniqueness of concept, brand appropriateness, ...). Let the group choose 4.
  • Apply each filter and mark ideas that pass all 4.
  • Which ideas will the group carry forward? Does someone feel strongly about one of the ideas?Otherwise use majority vote.
The selected ideas enter Phase 4.

Perfection Game (#20)

What would make the next iteration a perfect 10 out of 10?
Source: Ben Linders
Prepare a flip chart with 2 columns, a slim one for 'Rating' and a wide one for 'Actions'. Everyone rates the last iteration on a scale from 1 to 10. Then they have to suggest what action(s) would make the next iteration a perfect 10.

Cause-Effect-Diagram (#25)

Find the source of problems whose origins are hard to pinpoint and lead to endless discussion
Source: Henrik Kniberg
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.

Speed Dating (#26)

Each team member explores one topic in depth in a series of 1:1 talks
Source: Thorsten Kalnin
Each participant writes down one topic they want to explore, i.e. something they'd like to change. Then form pairs and spread across the room. Each pair discusses both topics and ponders possible actions - 5 minutes per participant (topic) - one after the other. After 10 minutes the pairs break up to form new pairs. Continue until everyone has talked to everyone else.
If the group has an odd number of members, the facilitator is part of a pair but the partner gets all 10 minutes for their topic.

Remember the Future (#37)

Imagine the next iteration is perfect. What is it like? What did you do?
Source: Luke Hohmann, found at Diana Larsen
'Imagine you could time travel to the end of the next iteration (or release). You learn that it was the best, most productive iteration yet! How do your future selves describe it? What do you see and hear?' Give the team a little time to imagine this state and jot down some keywords to aid their memory. Then let everyone describe their vision of a perfect iteration.
Follow up with 'What changes did we implement that resulted in such a productive and satisfying future?'Write down the answers on index cards to use in the next phase.

Park Bench (#41)

Group discussion with varying subsets of participants
Source: Diana Larsen
Place at least 4 and at most 6 chairs in a row so that they face the group. Explain the rules:
  • Take a bench seat when you want to contribute to the discussion
  • One seat must always be empty
  • When the last seat is taken, someone else must leave and return to the audience
Get everything going by sitting on the 'bench' and wondering aloud about something you learned in the previous phase until someone joins. End the activity when discussion dies down.
This is a variant of 'Fish Bowl'. It's suited for groups of 10-25 people.

Wish granted (#50)

A fairy grants you a wish - how do you know it came true?
Source: Lydia Grawunder & Sebastian Nachtigall
Give participants 2 minutes to silently ponder the following question: 'A fairy grants you a wish that will fix your biggest problem at work overnight. What do you wish for?' Follow up with: 'You come to work the next morning. You can tell, that the fairy has granted your wish. How do you know? What is different now?' If trust within the group is high, let everyone describe their 'Wish granted'-workplace. If not, just tell the participants to keep their scenario in mind during the next phase and suggest actions that work towards making it real.

Original 4 (#55)

Ask Norman Kerth's 4 key questions
Source: Norman Kerth
Norman Kerth, inventor of retrospectives, identified the following 4 questions as key:
  • What did we do well, that if we didn’t discuss we might forget?
  • What did we learn?
  • What should we do differently next time?
  • What still puzzles us?
What are the team's answers?

Undercover Boss (#58)

If your boss had witnessed the last iteration, what would she want you to change?
Source: Love Agile
Imagine your boss had spent the last iteration - unrecognized - among you. What would she think about your interactions and results? What would she want you to change?
This setting encourages the team to see themselves from a different angle.

Brainwriting (#66)

Written brainstorming levels the playing field for introverts
Source: Prof. Bernd Rohrbach
Pose a central question, such as 'What actions should we take in the next iteration to improve?'. Hand out paper and pens. Everybody writes down their ideas. After 3 minutes everyone passes their paper to their neighbour and continues to write on the one they've gotten. As soon as they run out of ideas, they can read the ideas that are already on the paper and extend them. Rules: No negative comments and everyone writes their ideas down only once. (If several people write down the same idea, that's okay.)
Pass the papers every 3 minutes until everyone had every paper. Pass one last time. Now everyone reads their paper and picks the top 3 ideas. Collect all top 3's on a flip chart for the next phase.

Company Map (#68)

Draw a map of the company as if it was a country
Source: Judith Andresen
Hand out pens and paper. Pose the question 'What if the company / department / team was territory? What would a map for it look like? What hints would you add for save travelling?' Let participants draw for 5-10 minutes. Hang up the drawings. Walk through each one to clarify and discuss interesting metaphors.

The Worst We Could Do (#69)

Explore how to ruin the next iteration for sure
Source: Corinna Baldauf
Hand out pens and sticky notes. Ask everyone for ideas on how to turn the next iteration / release into a certain desaster - one idea per note. When everyone's finished writing, hang up all stickies and walk through them. Identify and discuss themes.
In the next phase turn these negative actions into their opposite.

Pessimize (#74)

If we had ruined the last iteration what would we have done?
Source: Judith Andresen
You start the activity by asking: 'If we had completely ruined last iteration what would we have done?' Record the answers on a flip chart. Next question: 'What would be the opposite of that?' Record it on another flip chart. Now ask participants to comment the items on the 'Opposite'-chart by posting sticky notes answering 'What keeps us from doing this?'. Hand out different colored sticky notes to comment on the comments, asking 'Why is it like this?'.

Poster Session (#91)

Split a large group into smaller ones that create posters
Source: Unknown, adapted by Corinna Baldauf, inspired by Michal Grzeskowiak
After you've identified an important topic in the previous phase you can now go into detail. Have the larger group split up into groups of 2-4 people that will each prepare a poster (flip chart) to present to the other groups. If you have identified more than one main topic, let the team members select on which they want to work further.
Give the teams guidelines about what the posters should cover / answer, such as:
  • What exactly happens? Why is that a problem?
  • Why / when / how does this situation happen?
  • Who benefits from the current situation? What is the benefit?
  • Possible solutions (with Pros and Cons)
  • Who could help change the situation?
  • ... whatever is appropriate in your setting ...
The groups have 15-20 minutes to discuss and create their posters. Afterwards gather and each group gets 2 minutes to present their results.

BYOSM - Build your own Scrum Master (#94)

The team assembles the perfect SM \& takes different points of view
Source: Fabian Schiller
Draw a Scrum Master on a flipchart with three sections on him/her: brain, heart, stomach.
  • Round 1: 'What properties does your perfect SM display?'
    Ask them to silently write down one trait per note. Let participants explain their notes and put them on the drawing.
  • Round 2: 'What does the perfect SM have to know about you as a team so that he/she can work with you well?'
  • Round 3: 'How can you support your SM to do a brilliant job?'
You can adapt this activity for other roles, e.g. BYOProductOwner.

If I were you (#95)

What could sub-groups improve when interacting with others?
Source: Thomas Wallet
Identify sub-groups within the participants that interacted during the iteration, e.g. developers/testers, clients/providers, PO/developers, etc. Give participants 3 minutes to silently write down what they think their group did that negatively impacted another group. One person should be part of one group only and write stickies for all groups they don't belong to - 1 sticky per issue.

Then in turn all participants read their stickies and give them to the corresponding group. The affected group rates it from 0 ('It was not a problem') to 5 ('It was a big problem'). Thus you get insights and shared understanding about problems and can select some of them to work on.

Election Manifesto (#105)

Different parties present manifestos for change. Who will get your vote?
Source: Thomas Guest
Is there an election coming up in your country? Use it as a back drop for your team to convince each other of their change initiatives.

Ask the participants to split into political parties with 2 or 3 members. For 20 minutes, each party will work on a manifesto for change. What isn't working? How would they improve things?
Afterwards the parties meet again and their leaders present their manifestos. Be prepared for tough questions and heckling!
Now plan for a better world! Summarise the manifestos with sticky notes, one color per party. What do the parties agree on? Which promises are unrealistic and which can you achieve?

Set Course (#113)

Imagine you're on a voyage - Cliffs and treasures await
Source: Katrin Dreyer
Imagine you're navigating a boat instead of a product or service. Ask the crew the following questions:
  1. Where is a treasure to be found? (New things worth trying)
  2. Where is a cliff to be safe from? (What makes the team worry)
  3. Keep course for ... (What existing processes go well?)
  4. Change course for... (What existing processes go badly)

Force Field Analysis (#115)

Analyse the factors that support and hinder a particular initiative
Source: Derek Neighbors, via Joel Edwards
State the topic that the team will explore in depth (deployment processes, peer-programming, Definition of Done, ...). Break the room into groups of 3-4 people each. Give them 5-7 minutes to list all contributing factors, drivers and actions that make up the topic. Go around the room. Each group reads 1 of their sticky notes and puts it up inside the force field until no group has any items left. Cluster or discard duplicates. Repeat the last 2 steps for factors that inhibit or restrain the topic from being successful or being as effective as it could be. Review all posted items. Add any that are missing.

To identify the most influential factors, everybody gets to 4 votes - 2 for contributing factors, 2 for inhibitors. Tally the votes and mark the top 2x2 factors with big arrows. Spend the last 15-20 mins of the session brainstorming ways to increase the top driving factors and decrease the top restraining factors.

Snow Mountain (#118)

Address problematic burndowns and scope creep
Source: Olivier Fortier
This activity is helpful when a team is constantly dealing with additional requests and scope creep. Use the burndown chart of problematic sprints to draw snowy mountains with the same outline. Add a few trees here and there. Print drawings of kids in various sledging situations such as kid sledging down fast, kid sledging and being scared, kid with a sledge looking bored, etc. (You can use Google image search with 'kid sledging drawing').

In teams of 2 or 3, ask the team members to identify which kid's reaction goes with which part of the mountain.
Example: If the mountain is flat, the kid might be bored. If you're facing a wall, the kid might be scared.

You can then discuss the team's reaction facing their own burndowns.


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.