Fun Retrospective Games and Ideas

Ruth Hadari
Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert
Posted on
Jul 9, 2020
Updated on
Jul 3, 2022
Table of Content

Are you looking for ways to engage your development team and keep them focused while having fun sprint retrospective meetings? Why not incorporate some games and fun ideas into your retro meet ups? 

Let’s look at some fun retrospective games you might incorporate into your Agile Retrospective meetings to keep team members engaged and having fun.

Idea #1: Word Retrospective

The one word retrospective is a fun and straight-to-the-point game where each team member sums up their feelings about the past iteration in one word. As the team members say their words, the facilitator jots them down on a flip chart. Once the words are written down, there will be more discussion about them using “why” questions. 

The dev team then discusses each word and chooses which issues they will take on and which improvements they will work on. This game is a great way to make sure everyone is heard and feels like their ideas are valued.

Idea #2: Draw the Sprint

The Draw the Sprint Retrospective is a creative way to have the team reflect on the past sprint. Each member receives index cards or sticky notes and markers or pens. The facilitator then asks questions about the past sprint such as: 

  • How did you feel?
  • What was the most remarkable moment?
  • What was the biggest issue?
  • What would you have liked to see instead?
  • Etc.

The team then draws their answer to each question and the drawings are posted on a whiteboard. The team guesses the answers before discussing them.

Idea #3: Writing the Unspeakable

This exercise is done in order to help team members see what is holding them back. This is a silent activity. Each team member is asked to write down what they feel is holding them back, either with the company or within the sprint itself. Once they have written it down, they pass the paper to the left and the next person reads it and adds notes. The papers are passed until it reaches the original owner to review, and then they are torn up and thrown away.

Idea #4: The Feedback Game

This is a fun way to find out more about your own character and is a good way to give feedback to other dev team members about their attitude and behavior in the workplace. There are 140 cards with different characteristics, and everyone is asked different questions like:

  • What are my qualities?
  • How do others perceive me?
  • What qualities should I try to improve?

This is a nice team-building exercise and a good way to help your team see their own strengths and what they should work on.

Idea #5: The Constellation

The constellation retrospective starts with placing an object in the middle of the circle of team members. Statements are then read aloud, and team members are asked to move in towards the object if they agree, and away if they disagree. Statements can be things like:

  • I feel like I can talk openly in Retrospective.
  • I am happy with the quality of our team.

Idea #6: Truths and a Lie

Each team member writes down three statements about the previous agile sprint, 2 of which will be truths, and one will be a lie. They must then read them, and the rest of the team guesses which is the lie. This is a fun icebreaker for meetings.

Idea #7: Remember the Future

The retro game of remember the future is an inventive way to generate ideas for the team’s next iteration. The scene is set by telling team members to imagine they have traveled to the future at the time of the next iteration and ask each of them to describe it. What is involved? How do you feel? And more…

Idea #8: ESVP

The ESVP activity is a fun retrospective that helps you to find out how the team feels about the meeting and what is the primary reason it didn't go well.
In this game, participants anonymously choose which of the following categories best fits how they feel about the meeting - Explorers, The Shoppers, Vacationers or Prisoners.

Idea #9: Who What When

Who What When is a simple, fun retrospective activity that helps define actionable items for the next sprint. To do this effectively, all you need to do is create three columns labeled Who, What, When (on a spreadsheet or whiteboard). Write down who needs to do the action, what the action is, and when the action is due on separate sticky notes. Then simply place these sticky notes under their respective columns.

Who, What, When is a great way to quickly visualize the tasks at hand and determine who is responsible for what. It’s also interesting and challenging enough to keep your scrum team members engaged.

Idea #10: Smart Action

Another fun retrospective activity that helps an Agile team determine what they’ll do next, Smart Action, utilizes a flipchart that follows the acronym SMART:

  • Specific - define a clear what and who.
  • Measurable - set the project’s scope or parameters to determine when it will be deemed complete.  
  • Achievable - make sure it is feasible.
  • Relevant -  ensure that it matters to the team and is not a duplication of another task.
  • Time-bound/Timeboxed - set a timeline for when this will be completed by.

Idea #11: Well & Worries

Well & Worries is a fun retrospective activity that allows an Agile team to understand how they are feeling. First, ask everyone to pair up and create two columns labeled Well and Worries on a piece of paper. Then, have them discuss what went well and what worried them with their partner and remind everyone to take notes. Once that is done, continue by switching pairs and repeating the previous step. This will help the team understand each other's concerns to address them adequately.

Idea #12: Next Action

The Next Action Retro idea is very similar to Who What When, and it uses many of the same components. Here, team members write the who, what, and when of an action item onto separate sticky notes like they did before. However, in this activity, instead of placing sticky notes in their respective categories, you now place these sticky notes next to defined goals. This is a great way to see if team members are working on the right things and whether or not they're taking actions that will help them reach the mutual goals of your company.

Idea #13: We Do & We Value

This is another fun retrospective activity that permits the dev team to gain better insight into what they do. Similar to the last exercise, have everyone pair up and create two columns labeled We Do and We Value on a piece of paper. Each pair has to rank action items in order of which are always done, then rank the same items according to what the team values the most. Afterward, ask the pairs to switch and discuss how they rated their action items with others. Aim to create a final ranking that everyone agrees upon, allowing the team to discuss what items are essential but not given enough focus, not essential but given too much attention, or not done enough!

Idea #14: Energy Level

Create a diagram with different energy levels (low, moderate, high) for this retrospective activity and ask your team members to place a sticky note with their name on the energy level that best represents how enthusiastic they are about the upcoming sprint. Once everyone has had a chance to place their name, ask the team members with high energy levels to share why they are enthusiastic and what will make them feel even better next time, then do the same for those with low or moderate energy levels. The point of this activity is to see where the team stands and learn about what will make them feel better so they can work well in future sprints.

Idea #15: Value of the Retro

Similar to the Energy Level activity, this is another fun idea that will increase your insight into how the team views the previous retrospective. First, create a diagram with different value levels (like a big piggy bank for the highest value, a small wallet for moderate value, and loose change for the lowest value). Then, ask team members to place sticky notes with their names on the icons that best represent how valuable they believe the last retro was. Afterward, discuss why different team members believe the retro was helpful and see if there is a consensus. Again, this activity can help Agile teams understand how they feel about their retrospectives to make changes to improve future meetings!

Idea #16: Kudos Card Wall

This is a simple and excellent retrospective activity that can boost your team's morale. Simply ask team members to write down a Kudos Card to acknowledge a fellow teammate. The cards can recognize any traits in the receiver, and the only rule is that they need to be positive messages or compliments. Once all Kudos Cards have been written, ask everyone to place them on a wall or board and discuss the great things that have been happening on their team and why it's important to acknowledge them!

Idea #17: Wow or Happy

An enjoyable retrospective activity, Wow or Happy can help Agile teams learn more about what makes everyone happy or excited. First, ask your team to write down what surprised them during the sprint on the Wow side of a piece of paper and what made them happy on the Happy column on the other side of the paper. This is a quick way to get feedback on your team’s feelings about the project!

Idea #18: Well, Learned, Different & Puzzle

This activity is designed to provide a time and space for Agile teams to reflect on their progress. Create a diagram with four quadrants:


  • Well - in this quadrant, ask team members to write down what they think went well during the sprint.
  • Learned - here, ask everyone to share what they learned and what was new for them during the sprint.
  • Different - ask team members to share what didn't go as planned and how it can be done better next time.
  • Puzzle - finally, in this last quadrant, have everyone write down something they are still trying to figure out or are having trouble with.


Once everyone has had a chance to contribute, discuss each note and see what insights can be gleaned from them!

Idea #19: Rose, Bud, Thorn Exercise

To use the Rose, Bud, Thorn template, have the team take a few minutes to come up with individual roses, buds, and thorns. Participants can write these down on post-its or on a whiteboard. You can also ask prompt questions to help facilitate the session better:

Rose

  • What are you most proud of in the past or current project?
  • What was your favourite part?
  • What areas should be celebrated and continued for the following projects?

Bud

  • What can be improved upon?
  • What opportunities get you excited?
  • Do you have ideas we can implement for the next projects?

Thorn

  • What aspects of the project are most stressful?
  • What factors hinder our progress?
  • If we could have a redo, what would you have changed for the better?

Once everyone has written down their ideas, the facilitator can read them out loud, and the team can reach a consensus on which ideas they would most like to pursue.

Click here for more information on the Rose, Bud, Thorn Retrospective

Final Thoughts

These are just a few fun retrospective activities that can help Agile teams reflect on their progress. By engaging in these activities, team members can learn more about themselves, each other, and the project as a whole. Conducting different activities every now and then will also help keep retrospectives motivating and fun!


About the author

Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert

Highly experienced in leading multi-organizational teams, groups, in-shore as well as off-shore. The go-to person who is able to simplify the complex. An agile advocate, experienced in all common methodologies. Responsible for the entire software development lifecycle process from development, QA, DevOps, Automation to delivery including overall planning, direction, coordination, execution, implementation, control and completion. Drives execution, and communicates on status, risks, metrics, risk-mitigation and processes across R&D.

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