3 ways to spice up your retrospectives

Written By: Soraya Ploia, Scrum Master, on Nov 23, 2017

Three screens showing a projector, a conversation, and food

A retrospective gives a team the opportunity to look back at the sprint they just finished and collectively assess what went well and where they could improve going forward. But let's be honest, they can quickly become a chore if you don't mix up, keep it fresh, or add a little zest here are there.

Here are three sure-fire ways to ensure retrospectives stay fresh and flowing from start to finish:

1. Eliminate “lulls”. Start with all the right tools. #

This will vary from team to team. In our retrospectives, we use:

  • Snacks (to ward off any hangry vibes)
  • Projector and A/V setup
  • Whiteboard
  • Whiteboard marker
  • Sticky notes
  • Personal devices/Spare paper for taking personal notes

If you don't have the right tools at the ready, you risk disrupting the creative flow of the conversation. Always be ready!

2. Create a comfortable environment by getting people talking first. #

Our team starts every retrospective with an ice breaker. Here are a few of our bona fide favourites:

  • Tell Us Something We Don’t Know: Go around in a circle. Have each team member tell the team one thing that no one knows about them.
  • Secret Friend: A week ahead of the retrospective, each team member is allocated a “secret friend”. At the start of the meeting, each team member "describes" their secret friend. We liked to swap this around by describing the opposite traits of the person. For example, for the youngest team member we said, "this person is very old!". The team guesses the secret friend, and once guessed correctly, the secret friend wins their treat for the meeting!
  • The Candy Love Game: From a very handy website, Fun Retrospectives.

3. Ask the same question in different ways. #

During a retrospective, get people thinking around the usual “What went well” / “What could be improved” dichotomy by asking the question in different ways each time. A fresh perspective encourages creative problem-solving:

  • Desert Island Retrospective: Start by drawing a desert island. This represents the outcome of the project. A boat propeller represents how you got there. Anchors are challenges along the way.