Express Yourself – Check-in activity for Retrospectives

by Anthony Petrucci

What can you expect to get out of this exercise?

Express Yourself is an easy Check-In exercise at the beginning of the Retrospective that will visualize the team’s sentiment and help gather data early in the session. In many cases, it can be difficult for people to express their feelings and opinions especially if there are new team members or strong personalities. This activity allows each person an opportunity to briefly describe how they feel about the past Sprint or any predetermined topic.

Why is this exercise useful?

This exercise gets the team thinking about the events that triggered those feelings which can lead to deeper and more meaningful conversation in later exercises during the Retrospective. Since this is an opening activity, it is a quick way to gauge the team’s attitude coming into the session.  Additionally, it will be a bit of a tease for those who are ready to jump right into the details.

What to consider before getting started

Oftentimes team members will go into the Retrospective with an issue in mind that they want to discuss and are very passionate about expressing their opinion. The Scrum Master should be mindful to keep the scope of the conversation on the team’s sentiment, not finding solutions. This should be done in later exercises. Also, make sure the conversation doesn’t carry on too long as this is just a warm up activity.


  • Set up 1 – 2 minutes
  • Silent writing 2 – 3 minutes
  • Post feelings 1 – 2 minutes
  • Discussion 6 – 8 minutes

How to do it

1. Draw a horizontal line or use tape on a white board or easel pad. Use the surroundings at your disposal. Find some space on a wall or window if necessary.


2. Place one post-it note at one end with a smiley face and one at the other end with a sad face to create the range of emotions.


3. Provide each team member with 1 post-it note.

4. Allow the team 2-3 minutes to write one word that describes how they felt about the last Sprint or any given topic.


5. Have the team plot their post-it note on the range of emotions where they think their feeling best fits in.


6. Evaluate the range of emotions and discuss each one individually.

7. Ask the team who owns each of the feelings and have them explain why they felt that way.

Note – Be sure the conversation does not carry past 8 minutes. The focus is on the team’s current emotions and the why behind them. Solutions to problems should not be discussed yet.

8. Once everyone has spoken, thank them for sharing their thoughts and move on to the next planned exercise.

About Anthony

Anthony Petrucci is a Scrum Master, Kanban Lead, former Product Owner, and Agile Enthusiast. For comments, questions, or feedback, please contact Anthony on Twitter @AgileSauce.

Picture credits go to: Anthony Petrucci


In case you are interested in Agile Retrospectives I am at the moment preparing a 10 DAYS FREE AGILE RETROSPECTIVES PROGRAM. This is a complete self-study program where you will learn anything that you need to become a great Agile Retrospectives facilitator.

If you are interested in sharing your Agile Retrospective exercise with us on the format of Guest Blogging please contact us:

“The World Café”

by Timothée Bourguignon

WC_MugAlthough the World Café is well known in the moderation space, I have rarely seen this format used as a Scrum Retrospective. The World Café requires larger groups than a typical Scrum Team, this might explain why. That said, do you work on a multi Scrum-Team Project? Do you also hold larger retrospectives with all team-members on a regular basis? Give the World Café a try, I’m sure you’ll find it very interesting.

What you can expect to get out of this exercise

I find the World Café particularly efficient in order to spread Scrum patterns, practices, tips and tricks across the teams. Done well, you can expect a really good leveraging of the Scrum processes and experiments done by your teams. You can see it as a mean to perform cross polinisation between the teams. As a side effect, you – as a Scrum Master – will get a good picture of where your team members currently are at in their Scrum adoption.

What do you need?

Like many good ol’ knights at King Arthur’s side, the World Café revolves around tables. As a rule of thumb, I suggest counting with 6 to 10 persons per table. At each table you should place a big sheet of paper and various colored pens, enough so that everyone can grab one (or more) at will and write or draw something down. As a personal tip, I’d suggest to try and get paper napkins instead of Flipchart sheets. In my experience, writing directly on the table triggers some kind of psychologic effect that increases creativity and removes the typical „Post-it-format“ boundaries set by countless „Mad/Glad/Sad“ retrospectives. You will also need three questions, I’ll describe this with more details in a bit.

WC_CrowdThe Flow

First, spread out the participants evenly at the different tables and let them elect a moderator each. The moderators will then stay at their tables during the whole retrospective.

All the groups start by discussing the first question and write down all the ideas they have with whatever mean they think is appropriate. Brainstorm, MindMapping, Sketchnoting, Drawing etc. everything is allowed. At the end of the first round – remember to set a timer that everyone can hear – the moderator thanks the participants and send them away.

The participants should now form into new groups, avoiding people they discussed the first question with; if manageable. The moderators present a quick summary of what has been discussed at their table, introduce the second question to their new group and moderate the resulting discussion using the same or another technique, as is felt appropriate for the current group.

Repeat the format for the last question.

The questions

As you can imagine, the questions or statements to be discussed are key elements of the retrospective. Fail at finding the correct ones and you could jeopardize the whole discussion… so chose wisely. In the cross-pollination context I described above, the following statements are really interesting:

  • „Our team has been dealing with following difficulties in the past sprint(s) <…>“
  • „Our team has been successful running the following experiments in the past <…>“
  • „X weeks/months from now, the project is a complete success, thanks to <…>“

Through the first question, you will see current problems being verbalized and emerge as people devise what has been painful in the past. Via the second question, a different set of eyes will be laid onto the problems that are still visible on the table. Doing so, we want to have a group of persons think about the solution they implemented or experimented with while being influenced by problems faced by others. The third question intends to get new ideas out, ideas that often emerged from the discussion but could not be expressed in the second round.


As you can see, this format is fairly simple but is particularly efficient in helping teams influence each other and come up with ideas on their own. You shouldn’t expect world revolutionizing ideas to emerge, but you should be able to see a good cross-pollination of your teams with ideas and experiments to run right away.

As a closing event, you can gather the whole team and ask the moderators to present the outcome of their respective discussions. I like to gather action item during this part and – for instance – use silent voting (raise your hand) to prioritize the items right in their order of importance or impact on the output of the teams for example.

TimBourguignon_AvatarAbout Tim

Tim Bourguignon likes to describe himself as a full time geek, agile developer and BS hunter. He was born in France, raised as a European child and currently lives in Germany where he juggles with software development, Scrum Mastering and Agile Coaching. When he’s not in front of a computer, you’ll find him behind a camera, in his running shoes or with his wife & son… of course never in that order! Read more about Tim on his Website on contact him on twitter @timothep.

Pictures credit to: Tim Bourqguignon (Pictures are licensed under “Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License”)


In case you are interested in Agile Retrospectives I am at the moment preparing a 10 DAYS FREE AGILE RETROSPECTIVES PROGRAM. This is a complete self-study program where you will learn anything that you need to become a great Agile Retrospectives facilitator.

If you are interested in sharing your Agile Retrospective exercise with us on the format of Guest Blogging please contact us:

Emotional Roller Coaster Retro technique

by Jason Cusack

Our Practice team looks for creative ways to breathe life back into stale retrospectives.  We love to embody techniques that require engagement from the WHOLE team, and prevent a few strong personalities from taking over the session.  Teams get bored when they have run the sailboat six sprints in a row.  They get even more bored when the cadence reverts to “what went well” and “what did not go well”.  It’s easy for teams to go through the motions when retrospectives get boring, and our suite of retrospective techniques will definitely prevent boredom from creeping into your team’s mindset.

This technique is a twist on the traditional “Happy, Mad, Sad, Glad” – and a technique we have dubbed “The Emotional Roller Coaster”.  In our version of this technique, we have removed “Glad”, and replaced it with a Wildcard emotion.  You can choose Overwhelmed, Furious, Ecstatic, etc..the possibilities are truly limitless.  We have found that “Happy” and “Glad” are often interchangeable, and teams like the ability to customize emotions.  This can often lend itself to some funny descriptions, and helps the team feel like they can share ANY feeling without having to paint it in the light of the original four. 

EC Retro 3What can you expect to get out of this exercise

This technique helps convey that emotions on sprint teams are OK.  It helps teams to express emotions in a constructive way, and allows people to share feedback throughout the roller coaster of emotions that a sprint can sometimes embody.  Frustration, happiness, disappointment, stress, excitement, nervousness, angst, and relief.  (just to name a few)

We incorporate a sprint timeline, allowing people to express multiple emotions, on the same topic, throughout the sprint.  This helps to frame a point-in-time where the emotion was first felt, and gives team members the approval to feel upset about something in the beginning of the sprint, while still arriving at a positive conclusion by the end of the sprint.  It also helps team members look through the context of someone else’s feelings – as an item that was unemotional for one team member, could have derailed another team’s member day.  Understanding how to perceive an event through the eyes of someone else can be especially enlightening.

This technique also allows a coach or scrum master to see if the sprint ended on a positive note.  I always put “Happy” at the top, and look to see how many cards get placed in that category at the “End”.  If I see a lack of cards in “Happy”, it helps to prompt a discussion on “change”.

When you would use this exercise

This exercise is best used for teams that have conflict either personally with each other, or with another team they work with.  We try to coach that conflict is good, as its typically required for growth.  The minute teams stop caring and lose passion, is the point where we want to evaluate if they are really taking risks, and introducing discomfort.  Change is inherently difficult, which is why we like to be transparent and accepting of the gamut of emotions people may feel throughout a sprint.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 5.16.28 PMHow to do it

2 min – An Introduction to constructively sharing emotions.  Judgment is not permitted.  Nor is denigrating how someone may have felt throughout the sprint.  Everyone gets a chance to express how they felt

1 min – Demonstrate spatially, the sprint timeline:  The Beginning of the sprint (day 1), the middle of the sprint, and the end of the sprint (today).  Team members can enter events across the continuum, or focus on a certain point in the sprint – their choice.

2 min – The sprint timeline will then be divided into 4 quadrants:  Happy, Mad, Sad, and Wildcard.  Team members are encouraged to express how a particular event made them feel.  The Wildcard emotion can be ANYTHTING.  They just have to list it on the card.

10-15 min – Encourage team members to post at least 2 to 3 cards, and try to limit to no more than 5 separate events.   An Event that starts off at the beginning of the sprint as a “Mad”, but finishes at the end of the sprint as a “Happy” would constitute as one Card.  (as an example)

30-35 min – Review the cards in the order they appear on the sprint timeline. Encourage people to talk about the emotion behind the card.  What specific events or outcomes led them to that emotion?  Was there something that could have been done differently from their perspective?  If the emotion was a positive one, how can we replicate the outcome or feeling?

5 min – After all cards are reviewed , hand out stickers / pens / whatever – to allow team members to AGREE with a specific card or set of cards.  We want to promote consensus, and not violate our first rule: no judgment permitted.  Each person gets 3 votes of something they AGREE with.

20 min – Review team member votes, and organize the following:  What emotion was most prevalent for the team throughout the sprint?  Were there any surprises?  Were alternatives present that people were unaware of at the time the event occurred?  Can we commit to handling things differently when similar issues come up?  What is within our team’s control to change?

SAVE these discussions.  Hold the team accountable to helping each other through conflict.   Sometimes it’s the little things, like acknowledging help, saying thanks, or simply just letting people vent when they get upset about something.  Encouraging an emotional response, is different than letting people whine and complain.  Teams with Healthy Emotional Quotients (EQ) tend to deliver higher value, than teams that don’t.

Pictures credit to: Jason Cusak

Jason Cusack is an Enterprise Agile Coach, and has held roles as a Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Corporate Bureaucracy Destroyer. 

For questions, comments, or feedback, please contact Jason on twitter @scrumjitsu.

In case you are interested in Agile Retrospectives I am at the moment preparing a 10 DAYS FREE AGILE RETROSPECTIVES PROGRAM. This is a complete self-study program where you will learn anything that you need to become a great Agile Retrospectives facilitator.

If you are interested in sharing your Agile Retrospective exercise with us on the format of Guest Blogging please contact us:

2 Truths and a Lie retrospective

by James Gifford

Two Truths and a Lie is a classically fun activity that I have used many times to ‘break the ice’ at social gatherings or group meetings.  In this case, I had a team that was very familiar with each other, but was getting bored with standard retrospective techniques, making the team collaboration stagnant.  Racking my brain for new idea, on the spur on the moment I decided to transform this classic ice breaker activity into a new retrospective technique.

What you can expect to get out of this exercise?

By using this retrospective technique, you will have promoted team collaboration to generate a praise report and define actionable retrospective items.  The praise report is used by the team to celebrate the successes of the previous sprint, while the action items are used to focus and rally the team around potential team improvement areas.

Who is this exercise for?

This retrospective technique is suitable for all team maturity levels.


Each person will make three statements about the past Sprint – of which, two will be true and one will be a lie.  Statements should be related to any likes/dislikes, experiences, skills or habits.

How to do it

Setting up the Game – 10 min

Gather the team members in a circle and explain the rules.  Give every team member a pack of post-its and a sharpie so they can capture down their three statements.  Time box the team at 7 minutes to organize and capture there statements.  After the time is up, each team member will have 3 post-its, each containing a single statement.

Playing Two Truths and a Lie – 3 min (Per person)

Select a team member to present to the group there three statements.  After the statements have been presented, the group will discusses the statements and decide which statement they believe is the lie. If the group does not agree on which statement is a lie, have a show-of-hands vote, and select the statement with the majority of the votes.  After a statement has been selected, the presenter will then reveal to the group whether they guessed correctly, by indicating which of the statements is a lie.  Move on to the team member and continue until everyone has revealed their statements.

Wrap up Discussion – 20 Min

Once everyone has revealed their statements, collect and categorize all the Truths and Lies with a negative connotation.  Discuss these collection of statements with the team, identifying what could have been done better to remediate these items.  Create a list of actionable solutions for each statement and have the team vote on the top items they want to focus on addressing in the next sprint.  Add the remaining actionable items to the retrospective backlog, to be addressed in a future sprint.

Tips and variations

Two Truths and a Lie Strategies

Team members can use different tactics in attempting to hide their lies.  For example, three mundane statements or three unusual ones are perhaps hardest to evaluate against each other.  Lies are typically harder to identify if the group believes that the player might be telling the truth; people find it harder to believe truths if they don’t feel they can associate them with the player.

Two Truths and a Wish

In this variation, team members still identify 3 statements, two of which are true statements and one statement that is phrased as a wish, rather than a lie.  This is a fun alternative to help the team work through their statements, especially if you have a team that is struggling to create lie statements.

About James

I am an Agile and Lean coach, who is passionate about guiding teams and organizations to providing customer value through Agile and Lean techniques.  I am continuously working to hone my skills by attending and hosting various coaching retreats, certification classes, and conferences.  I am also deeply engaged in the Agile community, actively participating in group discussions and blog postings.

In case you have questions related to the article, feel free to contact James on Twitter @scrummando

Picture credits to: Christopher Holden

In case you are interested in Agile Retrospectives I am at the moment preparing a 10 DAYS FREE AGILE RETROSPECTIVES PROGRAM. This is a complete self-study program where you will learn anything that you need to become a great Agile Retrospectives facilitator.

If you are interested in sharing your Agile Retrospective exercise with us on the format of Guest Blogging please contact us: