Creativity with Picture Retrospectives

In retrospectives I love to work with images in stead of sticky notes. It helps people to think outside of the box, to see things from a different perspective.

Working with images has several advantages:

  • It’s fun. More laughter in the retrospective!
  • It helps the team members to zoom out.
  • It turns the creative brain on.

Here are some ideas that worked really well with my scrum teams.

1. Check In with (online) association cards

Have a look at this or this great (and free!) association card decks. You can use these association cards for a check in. Ask your team members to pick a card that symbolizes the past sprint for them, and let them explain their choice. It may take a bit longer than a usual check in, but it really helps in setting the stage for your retrospective.

2. Retrospective: ‘Metaphor for Past Sprint’

For example in this retrospective, where I simply asked them to find a picture that represents a metaphor for last sprint. I planned to use this as a check in only, but it turned out to raise enough discussion material for the entire retrospective.

3. Retrospective ‘Picture SWOT’

I love to do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis with an agile team every now and then, it’s a thorough retrospective method. It can provide great insight in a project, team dynamics, etc. But sometimes it can turn into a very heavyweight session, which is not always what the team needs.

So here’s what I tried out for a change. An alternative way to do a SWOT retrospective, like this, with pictures.

Picture SWOT

I gave the team the following instructions:

  • Take 7 minutes to find pictures that represent our team’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
  • Use only 1 picture per element.
  • Use the parking lot if there is anything you want to discuss that doesn’t fit in this SWOT retro format.
  • After that: every team member explains his or her pictures.
  • The team decides: which topics do we need to zoom into? If necessary: vote.
  • Team discussion.
  • Don’t forget the parking lot: anything to discuss there?
  • Make sure to let the team define small steps for improvement for the coming sprint.

4. Constellation Exercise

If you like the creative approach you may also like this constellation exercise. I used this one to set the stage for a Planet Earth Retrospective, in which we talked about becoming more sustainable as a scrum team. You can use this exercise for other constellations as well. It’s a very powerful exercise.

If your team has a challenge, put a symbol for the challenge on a whiteboard (or on the ground if you are in a live meeting), like the planet in the example below.

  1. Ask the team to grab an emoji or picture that represents how they feel about the problem.
  2. Then ask them where they stand in relation to the problem. Are they very involved? Are they turning their back towards the challenge (this is more visible in in a live meeting)?

This always gives a lot of insight and food for discussion.

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