There are many good ways to initiate a retrospective. In this post, I would like to introduce three different retro check-in formats. Each check-in format serves a specific purpose and can be easily varied and adapted to your team's needs.
One thing in advance: We also have a post on 21 clever retrospective check-ins that will break any ice – feel free to have a look at that, too 🙂
Now let's begin:
Retro Check-In Type 1: Create excitement with check-in games
The purpose of this type of check-in is to create engagement and interaction between team members. A variety of games can be used for this purpose. One game format that we particularly like and does not require much preparation is the "guessing game" quiz.
How the "guessing game" check-in works
Here are the instructions for the “guessing game” as check-in. You can best share the steps with your team on your (online) whiteboard:
- Each team member chooses an animal and keeps it for themselves. (1 minute)
- Each team member has 2-3 minutes to write 3 facts about their animal.
These facts can be obvious facts such as "has wings", or numbers that you can find out with a quick web search, such as "exists about 100,000 times in Germany".
- Now each team member presents their facts. After each fact, all the other team members can give ONE hint as to which animal it is.
- If the animal has not been guessed after all three facts, the person has won and receives a point. Otherwise, the person who guesses the animal first gets the point.
You can also play the check-in game retrospectively and add up the points over several rounds in order to regularly determine a “quiz winner” – that is really fun!
Note: You can adapt this check-in format and have the team guess car brands, countries, cities, fruits, etc. instead - there are no limits to your creativity. Or even better, get the team actively involved and have someone else choose the theme of the check-in guessing game in each retrospective.
Check-in type 2: Getting to know each other better
Your team has recently come together and the team members don't know each other well yet? Use a "get-to-know-each-other check-in" to give team members the opportunity to get to know each other better and to "break the ice". A great format for this is the "either-or check-in".
This is how the "either-or" check-in works
Make a list of alternative positions for categories like "Food", "Music", "Exercise", "Drinks". Avoid political and religious topics.
- Pasta or pizza? (Food)
- Chocolate or gummy bears? (Sweets)
- Soccer or basketball? (Sports)
- “Game of Thrones” or “Scrubs”? (Series)
- Tea or coffee (Drinks)
- Sweatpants or jeans (Clothing)
- K-Pop or Schlager (Music genre)
For the best getting-to-know effect, design the format in such a way that each team member not only positions their post-it, but also has the chance to comment on the choice. Just sharing stickies with your own name without explaining your own positioning is not very effective when it's about learning new insights about each other.
Depending on the size of the team and the time slot for the check-in, you should keep the list of “either-or questions” quite short. Allow around half a minute for each check-in question and participant. With 4 check-in questions and 6 participants, the time box should be at least 12 minutes.
In general, we would recommend not to include more than 6 “either-or questions” in order not to wear out the game too quickly.
The same applies here: Adapt this check-in format freely to the interests of your team and vary it each time for the necessary variety. It is also a great idea to have this format prepared by team members in turn – who knows what creative ideas arise from the team.
If you run out of ideas for the "either-or questions", the Internet offers a lot of inspiration.
Check-in type 3: Stimulate self-reflection with metaphors
Would you like to initiate self-reflection during the check-in of the retrospective? Then this third type of check-in is very suitable! Metaphors can be very helpful for the team to reflect their cooperation and working results from a new perspective.
Here are a few examples:
- Imagine writing a newspaper article about the last sprint: What would the headline of the article be?
- Of the following cars, which one best reflects the last sprint and why?
- Which image (e.g. superhero) best reflects your role in the last sprint?
Here, too, there are correspondingly many possibilities to vary the check-in formats, both the selection of option as well as the categories themselves.
If you like this retro format and questions, you can open them directly in our team development tool Echometer:
How to open the check-in formats in the Echometer tool: Just click on the button below, invite your team and get started.
The best at the end: Customizable check-in templates in Echometer
If you are searching for fun retrospective ideas, check out our post on 32 Kickass Retrospective Ideas for Agile Teams (including the Mario Kart Retro, Marathon Retro, and the Elon Musk Retro).
Do you regularly prepare retrospectives and would like an overview of different check-in formats from which you can easily choose?
In Echometer we have collected all of these check-ins as whiteboard templates. You can also freely adapt the templates so that you have a large number of variants up your sleeve.
If you don't know Echometer yet: Echometer is a software tool that was developed for inexperienced Agile Coaches, Scrum Masters & Servant Leaders. With predefined templates, it helps to gain self-confidence and quickly raise the team to a new level.
Sounds good? You can register here and then get started straight away:
One of the most effective ways to sustainably develop the agile mindset of teams is implementing an agile health check. Our free team health check kit is there to help you implement it and ask the right questions. Just takes a minute to go through it 🙂
If you are also interested in the best questions in agile retrospectives, look at the linked post. Do the 4L Retrospective and the Keep stop start retro belong in that list? Maybe. In case you work with Kanban, I recommend to look at the Kanban Team Health Check Retro.
Bonus: Training psychological safety
It's not the main topic of this post, but I'd like to briefly introduce you to something that we've been working on for a while. As you may know, "Psychological Safety“ is one of the core requirements for successful teams (you may have heard from Project Aristotle from Google).
In fact, as a team of psychologists we have developed a retrospective for exactly this use case: To increase psychological safety in your team, triggering team members to speak up!
You can now open and run such a retrospective for free in our tool. Find out more following the link