Best Retro Check-In Formats EN

The 3 Best Retro Check-in Formats for Every Situation

There are many good check-in methods for starting a retrospective. In this article I would like to present three different retro check-in formats with examples of check-in questions. Each check-in format serves a special purpose and can be easily adapted to the needs of your team and varied.

One thing in advance: we have another article with on this subject: 21 clever retrospective check-ins that will break any ice – feel free to take a look at it 🙂

Now let's begin:

Retro Check-In Type 1: Create excitement with check-in games

Retro check-in game on the online whiteboard

Duration: 10-20 minutes | Goal: Encourage fun, creativity
fun agile retrospective check in format Icebreaker - quiz
Click on the screenshot for an overview of the retro game.

Idea: 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. 

Here are the instructions for the “guessing game” as check-in. You can best share the steps with your team on your (online) whiteboard:

  1. Each team member chooses an animal and keeps it for themselves. (1 minute)
  2. 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".
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
If you like this retrospective check in, you can open it now in our team development tool Echometer – see button above.

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

Retro check-in game on the online whiteboard

Duration: 10-20 minutes | Goal: Getting to know each other, fun
fun agile retrospective check in format Icebreaker - Either or
Click on the screenshot for an overview of the retro game.

Idea: Your team recently got 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 "break the ice". A great check-in question format for this is the “either-or-check-in”.

Make a list of alternative positions for categories like "Food", "Music", "Exercise", "Drinks". Avoid political and religious topics.

  1. Pasta or pizza? (Food)
  2. Chocolate or gummy bears? (Sweets)
  3. Soccer or basketball? (Sports)
  4. “Game of Thrones” or “Scrubs”? (Series)
  5. Tea or coffee (Drinks)
  6. Sweatpants or jeans (Clothing)
  7. 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 have trouble coming up with ideas for either/or questions, there's more on the Internet: Inspiration for more either/or questions.

Check-in type 3: Stimulate self-reflection with metaphors

Retro check-in game on the online whiteboard

Duration: 10-20 minutes | Goal: Fun, reflection of the last Scrum Sprint
fun agile retrospective check in format Icebreaker - car
Click on the screenshot for an overview of the retro game.

Idea: 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.

For the picture above, ask the question:

  • Of the following cars, which one best reflects the last sprint and why? 

Here are a few more examples of metaphors:

  • Imagine writing a newspaper article about the last sprint: What would the headline of the article be?
  • Which image (e.g. superhero) best reflects your role in the last sprint?

If you like this retro method or check-in method, you can open it directly in our team development tool Echometer – see above.

Here, too, there are correspondingly many possibilities to vary the check-in formats, both the selection of option as well as the categories themselves.

Bonus: Health Check Retros

Quick health check's can also be a fun check-in for retrospective. In health checks, different statements are presented to the team and each team member expresses agreement on a scale. 

I have to add that you often drift into the data gathering phase and discussions when doing so – but that should be the goal of icebreakers anyway. 

You can open a Health Check Retrospective Check-In directly with our Health Check & Retro tool and run it online with your team (Echometer without registration). For example, here is our template on the theme of team spirit – feel free to take a look:

Note: This retrospective format asks for agreement with the given Health Check items on a scale.

Team Radar Tool Health Check Retrospective
  • Appreciation: My colleagues appreciate my contribution to the team.
  • Team Spirit: There is a trusting working atmosphere in our team.
  • Transparency: Everyone in my team knows who is currently working on what.
  • Recovery & Breaks: I have enough room for breaks in which I can draw new energy.
  • Meeting culture: Our meetings are well structured, yet leave room for creativity and new ideas.
  • Support: In my team, each team member passes on their individual knowledge and experience.

Recommended: Customizable check-in templates in Echometer

If you'd like some more varied questions for your retrospectives, check out our post on that: 54 fresh retrospective methods for beginners and professionals (including the Mario Kart Retro & the Team Morale Health Check).

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 is developed for Agile Coaches, Scrum Masters & Servant Leaders. With predefined templates, it helps to gain self-confidence and quickly raise the team to a new level. In our overview “7 free Retro Boards to open a retro now" you can find more in-depth information.

At last, 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 can help you ask the right questions – just click through: Agile Team Health Check kit.

If you're also interested in the best questions to ask in agile retrospectives, check out this article: The best agile retrospective questions. One thing in advance: Do the following two belong to it: 4L Retrospective and Keep stop start retro? Maybe. If you work with Kanban, have a look here: Kanban Team Health Check Retro.

Most Agile Coaches and Scrum Masters run in circles...

...fixing superficial symptoms. Time to use psychology to foster sustainable mindset change.

"Many team members are afraid to speak up!"

"We discover too many unexpected issues & bugs at a late stage!"

"Why does it sometimes take me hours to prepare a simple retrospective?"

Cover photo by Kindel Media on Pexels

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Need a team boost? Do this: The Spotify Health Check Retrospective!

First Health question: "😍 We love going to work, and have great fun working together."

Sounds good? Try our retro tool for free below.

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