When you’re working with a team for a long time, it is important to keep retrospectives sharp.
They are just too valuable to let them change into a drag.
The team should feel energized to start a retrospective, as it is the time and place to share feelings and let creativity blossom.
If all you’re doing is answering the questions ‘What went good?’ and ‘What can we improve?’, things tend to get boring after a couple of iterations.
To get some ideas about fun exercises you can introduce in retrospectives, this book by Ester Derby and Diana Larsen is a great reference.
Sam Kaner has also written a book with some great tips and tricks you can use during retrospectives or collaborative sessions.
A great exercise I used in one of my previous retrospectives is called the starfish.
I discovered the concept in a post of Patrick Kua, one of my favorite blogs.
Instead of trying to divide every thought into the 2 classic categories ‘Went good’ and ‘Do better’, the starfish has 5 categories: Keep doing, more of, start doing, stop doing, less off.
The main benefit is the change of viewpoint. Because the categories are in fact actions, you automatically start to work more result driven, instead of stopping at discovery level.
For example, if you didn’t like the length of the demos, you can write a post-it ‘Timebox demos’ and hang it on the ‘Start doing’ section.
I was amazed how much new stuff was discovered thanks to this change in perception.
Here is the result of our starfish exercise (I blurred most of it to keep it confidential).