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3 retrospective methods online: playful and creative!

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It is not an easy thing. Finding fun, interactive and value-adding retrospective methods online is no easy task. That you can do online with your team.

Get out of everyday life 

As a Scrum Master and psychologist, the retrospective methods that bring team members out of their daily grind are particularly valuable to me. That let you look at things from a different perspective.

That is why I have summarized 3 retrospective methods online here. The three are a little different, a little unusual. But - they work in an online context!

Retrospective Methods Online 1: Taboo 

The first method that I call is probably the most suitable for check-in. A check-in that focuses on the fun factor. And that stimulates thought and reflection.

Some probably know the game: Taboo. 

The principle is simple. A person from the team - for example Max - explains a term orally. The rest of the team has to guess which term Max explains.

The team receives one point for each correctly guessed point. You could therefore divide the team into two sub-teams that compete against each other.

The difficulty with this: Max may not use certain other terms that are closely related to the word.

For example, let Max explain the word “sprint”. However, he may not use the following words: 2 weeks, Scrum, period, 100m, fast.

If he should use one of these words - ups! Then the team gets no point and you have to explain the next word.

The procedure

Here's how I would design the game as a method online.

  1. You should think of terms as a Scrum Master, Agile Coach, Product Owner, Manager or generally as a facilitator. Terms that could be used to prepare the team for the later topics of the retrospective.

The terms can be relatively general around the context of teams. Or they can refer to “softer” factors such as communication or error culture. Whichever was the most noticeable in the last sprint. 

I have put together 10 ideas for you here - from the areas of “Sprint” and “Meta-Topics”.

Before the colon is the term that needs to be explained. Behind them are the words that you cannot use in the explanation. You are also welcome to add some - depending on the language used by your team.

Daily: 15 minutes, team members, every day / daily, communication…

Scrum Master: supervisor, manager, retrospective, impediment, specialist

Continuous improvement: better, worse, permanent, reflection, measure, regular

Sprint review: review, 2 weeks, scrum, period, review

Definition of done: done, goal, ticket, sprint, review

Bug: bug, software, insect, system, develop, program

Error: wrong, right, problem, culture, cost

Gratitude: work, earn, positive, helpful, feeling

Communication: speaking, talking, conversation, information, exchange

Team: group, system, we, people, people

In any case, it is recommended that you also think again specifically about the right topics for the last sprint.

And briefly think of which terms should not be mentioned in the context.

  1. In the retrospective, things get a bit complicated at the beginning. You have to communicate the terms to a person in the team. However, the terms may not perceive the others.
    In the best case scenario, you can simply send it to the person privately in writing via chat. 

Alternatively, you can also ask everyone to look away or only participate via audio. During this period, the explanation could be started.

If you have formed two teams, it would of course be sufficient if only one half switched off their video function or took the screen out of sight.

  1. As a Scrum Master, you stop the time, for example 40 seconds, that a person can explain. 

You also check that the person is not using the wrong terms.

  1. Either when all of your pre-defined terms have been explained or when everyone has had their turn, the game will end. Whoever explains most of the terms (team or individual) wins. 

By the way, if you are more interested in the fun factor and less in reflecting on the right terms ... 

You can also just use pre-made terms. You can do online taboo, for example via this link play. You would then only have to share your screen with the appropriate person or team.

Let's get to the next retrospective method online.

Retrospective Methods Online 2: Online Retro Tools

Why not use what's already there? There are tons of tools out there that can help you find and run retrospective methods online. They are designed for that. And many of them are free. 

I think of it for example Retrium and Funretro. Mind you, these are tools from the American area, where you should look at data protection. 

My personal favorite is clear. 

Because ... Because I had the strong feeling that you can get a lot more out of retro tools, I teamed up with a software developer and business economist. And we developed our own retrospective tool together.

It's called Echometer. The focus of the tool is to provide interactive and playful support, especially from a psychological perspective, when designing the retro. Here it is compared to other remote retro tools.

Comparison of remote retro tools

criteriaEchometerRetriumTeam retroFun retroParabolic
Interactive retrospectives✅ Yes✅ Yes✅ Yes✅ Yes✅ Yes
Automated retro summaries✅ Yes✅ Yes✅ Yes✅ Yes✅ Yes
Support of facilitator (automated check-in's...)✅ Yes✅ Yes⚠️ Partially❌ No⚠️ Partially
Templates for every level of team maturity✅ Yes⚠️ Partially⚠️ Partially❌ No❌ No
Continuous tracking of action items (retro to retro)✅ Yes⚠️ Partially⚠️ Partially❌ No✅ Yes
Measurability of team development over time✅ Yes⚠️ Partially✅ Yes❌ No❌ No
Async feedback before retro✅ Yes❌ No❌ No❌ No✅ Yes
Organizational Health Check✅ Yes❌ No❌ No❌ No❌ No
Item-pool with psychological nudges and food for thought✅ Yes❌ No❌ No❌ No❌ No
Focusing on privacy (developed and hosted in Germany)✅ Yes❌ No❌ No❌ No❌ No

Our users also tell us that it can simply save time. If you want to use it, you can do it under this Test the link for free and use it in your next retrospective. 

If you are still unsure, you are welcome to visit the Remote Agile Coach Holger experiences with our tool pure read.

Or you Echometer take a closer look.

Retrospective Methods Online 3: Black Stories - Remote Edition

The next of the retrospective methods online really stimulates creativity. And will surely also make one or two laugh. 

It is also particularly suitable for a fun online check-in to invite you to a creative session.

We are talking about Black stories

What are black stories?

Black stories are quasi yes-no puzzles. You have to guess as a group - based on minimal information - what happened. And typically ... something terrible has happened. Why it Black Story is called.

But you can only ask yes-no questions.

An example of a black story: A diver lies dead in the office. What happened? (For the 

The best thing is of course again if you adapt it to your everyday life. Here are four ideas of which black stories to use online and in the office context.

  • After the last sprint, Johannes fell motionless into a hole of darkness.
    • Explanation: Johannes is a Lego figure. It was used in a practice sprint at Lego Series Play to teach beginners the Scrum Framework. After the sprint, Johannes ended up back in the Lego box. The box is completely sealed - a hole in the dark.
  • A diver lies dead in the office building. What happened?
    • Explanation: The diver was picked up by a fire engine during a forest fire during a diving trip. The water was accidentally drained above the office building right next to the forest - and not above the forest itself.
  • Two Product Owners (or Agile Coaches, Scrum Masters, CEOs ...) find a tube in a meadow. Both look into the opposite ends. The tube is not particularly long, not clogged and straight. Nevertheless, the two cannot see each other. Why?
    • They look into the tube at different times.
  • (For football fans) After a physical argument, a duel is held. One of the duelists is hit in the head by a shot. The victim remains unharmed and is even happy about the hit. How so?
    • It is a football foul followed by a penalty. The goalkeeper holds the ball with his head and is happy to have prevented the goal.

The procedure

I recommend the following procedure in order to optimally use a black story for your retrospective online.

  1. At the beginning of the online retrospective, you share the puzzle.
  2. Anyone on the team can ask a yes-no question. For example: Did the whole thing happen at night?

If the answer is no, the next person in the round to ask a question.

As a facilitator, you are usually the only one who knows the right answer. 

In theory, you could also form two teams and virtually compete against each other (with two different black stories). Whoever solves a puzzle first in time - or with fewer questions - wins.

The advantage with two teams: Usually you have a lot of fun simply listening to how the current solution hypotheses of the opposing team go in the wrong direction ...

  1. The game can be ended when the term is guessed. Or, for the purpose of timeboxing: You stipulate that only 10 questions can be asked in total.

Then the team has to come up with a clever question strategy - always good practice.

Or you can specify that the game only lasts 10 minutes.

The nice thing about the game is certainly that you can use it too very many players or in large groups can play - more for this use case in our blog articles.

Conclusion

It's not so easy to do good retrospective methods online. Hopefully with the three different approaches here I could meet your taste.

By the way, as a psychologist I published a free eBook on a very similar topic: “12 science based workshops on Team Flow & Mindset Change”. 

Some of them can undoubtedly also be done remotely, in which I explained and explained many psychology workshops in order to further develop successful and less successful teams in a more targeted manner. You can find more information and the download of it with this link.

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