Ah, retrospectives, a fundamental aspect of an Agile team. However, making sure that your retrospectives are fun and effective can be challenging.

Below, I’ve listed effective ways to run a retrospective, and how to make them fun. Don’t worry, they all work, too.

1. Express yourself

This is a really simple retrospective exercise, that helps to gather the team’s ideas. This is really important as it can be difficult to express their true feelings or build up the confidence to share their ideas.

To run this retrospective, go through the following steps:

  • Draw a horizontal line on a whiteboard, wall or window – or anything you can get your hands on.
  • You then place a post-it note at each end – one has a smiley face, the other has a sad face.
  • Give each team member their own post-it note.
  • Each team member needs to write down how they feel about the last sprint or another topic. They then have to place it on the line.
  • Evaluate all the emotions and discuss each one individually.
  • You shouldn’t get angry or offended. Thank your team members for sharing.

2. Starfish

The starfish exercise is a powerful but simple Agile retrospective. It’s fun and can make tonnes of improvement.

In simple terms, what it does is, evolve on the typical three questions used in retrospectives: What went well? What will be improved? What didn’t go well?

Starfish bases it’s entire exercise on five words – they’re all in a circle. These are the following:

⛔️ Stop – The activities that bring no value to the team

👎 Less – The activities that the team needs to spend less time on

📥 Keep – The medium ground. The team is happy with these

➕ More – Activities that the team needs to focus on or perform more

✅ Start – New ideas and activities that need to be brought in

As you’ll be able to imagine, the starfish retrospectives give everybody a chance to see what’s working and what isn’t.

With the latter two options, it also provides the team with something to look forward to. Simultaneously, the team can rest assured that they won’t have to partake in activities that they don’t feel are beneficial.

3. Kudos Cards

Kudo cards is another simple but fun retrospective. I know, this won’t be new for many of you – but just in case, I thought I would mention them anyway.

You simply deliver a kudos card to people that you want to thank for the behaviour during the Sprint.

You can create your own Kudo cards, or buy them online – either way, the concept remains the same.

In the end, you collect all the cards and post them on an appreciation wall. What does this do for your team?

It gives you a simple but effective way to show a small token of appreciation. It will make team members feel appreciated, and create a stronger bond between everybody.

We often forget to just simply appreciate each other, with no expectation of any gain.

4. High-performance tree

This exercise can be found in various Agile books, and so it might not be news to you. However, I believe not enough people are using this retrospective, and truthfully, they’re missing out.

This exercise encourages a team to define the vision that they see for themselves. It’s a way for teams to see a path towards a high-performing team. What’s best, this fun retrospective can be used for startups, ordinary teams, and exceptional teams. What I mean by this is, even if you don’t think your team can improve, it can provide you with the next step to a high performing team.

Here’s how to do it:

Draw a tree with 5 roots – the 5 roots should be labeled with the five scrum values. Yes, it’s a little test for you, too.

In the leaves, list ways characteristics of high performing teams. For instance, committed to the success of the team. They should all be related to the 5 values – almost like the tree has grown from this.

This will help teams become more aware of what they need to become a high performing team.

Top tips for your next retrospective

The truth is, there are tonnes of resources online that will undoubtedly provide you with fun retrospectives to try out. They’re effective, fun and powerful – everything an Agile team strives off.

My top tips for you when running your exercises are:

🙂 Keep it simple

😯 Add novelty (make it a fun game)

💁‍♀️ Make it actionable

🤓 Stay focused

👨‍👨‍👧‍👦 Get an outsiders perspective

Modern Agile encourages that we experiment and learn throughout our projects and exercises. Retrospectives are a great way to discuss, collect and implement various learnings.

Above all, have fun and try new things. 

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