Bringing fun to your remote retrospective

My 8 favourite agile Retrospective Warm-up Games

Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash

You can find the very same article in the Babbel Magazine as well.

In my role as Engineering Manager, I run the Scrum retrospective of the team every couple of weeks. One of my goals is to always make it fun and engaging, so people feel confident expressing their opinion in a safe space.

There is probably an endless way of achieving that, so take this article as an inspiration for finding a way that works for you and your team. A common practice to keep retros exciting is iterating on the format itself. You can switch from a sailing boat format to Mad, Sad, Glad, or something similar. We as a team decided to use warm-up games for this purpose, which doesn’t necessarily need to relate to the retro which follows right after.

The goal we set ourselves as a team is to come up with a new 5–10 minutes warm-up activity for the team every two weeks. We now follow this idea for around one year and it became clear that the most important aspect is picking an activity which fits the people in your team. Know your people, then you also know which games they enjoy playing. In case you invent your own game and it goes wrong, I had a couple of those, it is still fun going through this together as a team. So, don’t be afraid to try things out.

Some learnings of mine while running remote warm-up games for a while:

  • Tools like Miro are awesome and irreplaceable to run that kind of games
  • Visual activities work better than auditive one’s in a remote world
  • Working from home can allow activities that would otherwise not be possible

So here we go with some games you can try out for remote work. For some, it is even beneficial to be at home and have home equipment available.

Post a Giphy

Everyone posts a Gif representing how they felt in the last two weeks into the team’s messaging channel (Slack, Teams, Discord, …). Give people the opportunity to elaborate on why they felt like this. This is a great activity to share emotional states more creatively than other tools such as happiness scales or mood charts.

A ninja might indicate that someone is fighting too many tickets at the same time.

Draw your sprint

Everyone draws an image of how the last 2 weeks went for them. People should use everything that tools like Miro have to offer (Emojis, Stickies, …). Make clear that it does not need to be about work necessarily. It is always nice to share personal stories for growing together as a team.

Find the mistakes

Find differences between two images as a group. This is a fun activity which you might know from newspapers in your childhood. Make clear to the team which image mistakes should be marked, otherwise it gets messy, as it happened to me.

A real-life example of how differences can be found.

Emoji TV show

Everyone in the team finds an Emoji (or many) for their favourite TV show they currently watch. If you have enough time or a small team you can also make it more fun and let people guess what the Emoji stands for.

Can you spot a TV show you know in here?

Group drawing

Pick a theme, set a time-box, and let everyone in the team contribute to a drawing. This will spark a lot of creativity in the team and maybe even generate art worth converting into an NFT.

Draw “How to make toast”

Everyone draws how they make toast, simple as that. Every team member can pick a box where they draw the process of making toast. It is very funny and surprising how many different ways exist to make a simple thing like toast.

Bring your favourite kitchen tool

Everyone tells a story about a kitchen utility you used recently. This is a fun exercise that makes people move around in their flat and reflect on what happened in their lives. But be aware, this can lead to mass purchases of kitchen items right after the retro. Also, better don’t play this while being hungry.

Post-IT

Find a fun image with uniform colours, prepare some stickies represented in it, and here we go. Replicate the image together as a team with those stickies. This is a great coordination activity with little speaking that shows how well the group is doing in terms of collective thinking.

Replicating Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony

I also want to share two games we tried which were a lot of fun, but not very successful in terms of outcome:

Play your favourite song

Having people play audio or videos in the virtual meeting did generally not work very well. Even with Google Meet’s tab audio sharing function, the quality was awful and not much fun listening to. Nevertheless, people found out more about the music taste of their teammates which inspired conversations afterwards. I for instance discovered that my team is into Disney songs.

Virtual jamming

Everyone picks up an instrument or something that makes noise and starts making a beat. Eventually, syncing delays made it very hard to establish a common beat and some instruments like guitars were much louder than others knocking a spoon to a cup. Despite the bad sound, it was a lot of fun and I can recommend it. I recently came across tools like this, which could work a bit better.

I hope you had fun reading through this article and already got some inspiration from it. Feel free to give it some 👏 and leave your thoughts in the comments down here.

Engineering Manager @ Babbel