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Hey <<Your Given Name>>!

Check out the two new activities in Retromat

I've just had a week of holiday and finally managed to catch up with Retromat-related email and - more importantly - add new activities. Hope you enjoy them:
Spot the Elephant (#130)
Are there problems nobody talks about?
Source: Willem Larsen

Prepare 1 set of cards per team member. A set of cards contains 1 elephant card, 1 boot card, 1 happy sun card, and 1 moon card. Explain how they each choose one card from their set:
  • If a team member thinks there is at least one 'Elephant in the room' (unspoken but important problem) for this team, then choose the Elephant card. Choosing this card doesn't mean that they have to talk about the Elephant or even say what they think the problem is.
  • If there are no Elephants, but they got their feelings hurt in an interaction at least once since the last retrospective (and didn't mention it), choose the Boot crushing flower card.
  • If everything is hunky dory for them, choose the Happy Sun.
  • If they're uncomfortable sharing, or don't feel like any other card fits, choose the neutral Moon.
To preserve anonymity, everyone places their chosen card face down on the feedback pile and the rest of their sets face down on a discard pile. Shuffle the discard pile to ensure anonymity and put it aside. Shuffle the feedback pile and then reveal the cards one at a time.

If your team has 1 or more Elephants in the room, you have some serious issues with psychological safety. Let the team sit with their new knowledge and offer a larger retrospective soon to make space for them to share if they wish, but do not ask directly who chose what. Preserve the anonymity and do not coerce explanations of the chosen card! This is a critical opportunity to build trust and preserve your ability to gain insight into the state of the team.

In the same way, depending on the size of your team, two or more hurt feelings suggest that you may have safety issues. Two or more Moons also suggests a lack of psychological safety. Take this feedback into consideration when designing your next retro. There are lots of great ways to more thoroughly dive into and surface learnings, this activity just points out when such a retrospective is needed.
Sacred Cow (#131)
What is the organization clinging to that doesn't make sense anymore?

Source: Ani Angelini

This activity is great for shaking up routine in places that do things the way they've always done them. Introduce it by telling the story of the sacred cows, preferably the long epic version here. Here's the gist:

'In some cultures cows were sacred, never to be killed for food or any other reason. The cows roamed free, leading a happy life and usually died of old age. With rare exceptions such as one fateful spring in a city far, far away ...

This particular city came under siege by a superior enemy force. All the citizens withdrew into the safety of the city walls but there was nothing going in or out of the city. Days turned into weeks and the citizens grew hungry and desperate. There was hardly any food left. They did, however, have a lot of sacred cows. Unfortunately, the idea of killing a sacred cow was taboo and also a horrible crime.

But these were not ordinary times. If the attackers were to succeed they would certainly kill the cows. So wasn’t it a better if the soldiers ate some of the cows to defend the town and maybe safe the people and the rest of the cows? In the end, the town had to re-evaluate their stance on cows. They thought and acted in ways that were unthinkable before. And it worked. They saved their town and the people in it. Not all the cows, though.’

Hand out sticky notes and ask the participants to write down the sacred cows of their organisation: Things they have always done a certain way without ever asking why.

Go around the group and invite the team to describe their ‘cows’. For big groups, it works best if they break into smaller groups for the discussion and share conclusions later with everyone.

Now it’s time to grab the cow by its horns. What can you do to slaughter a sacred cow? Every person / group proposes 2-3 actions / experiments. When all suggestions are on the table everyone has to sign at least one initiative as a supporter. Initiatives without supporters are discarded.

To close the retrospective, invite the group to gather in a round. Set the timer to 10 minutes and prepare a token. Ask them to share what they've gotten from the retrospective. Sharing is voluntary: if someone wants to share they have to ask for the token.
Glad they're in. I've been meaning to add "Sacred Cow" for at least half a year...

Oh, and if you're German, check out the German version. There are more than 20 newly translated activities in there, thanks to Ronald Steyer.



PS: Can you think of fellow retrospective enthusiasts who would benefit from this email? You're welcome to forward it! If they want more stuff like it, they can subscribe here.
Copyright © 2017 Corinna Baldauf, All rights reserved.

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