It's not easy. By this, I mean that it's not easy to find interactive, fun and, at the same time, value-adding retrospective methods which you carry out remotely within your team.
Escape your daily routine
In my opinion as a scrum master and psychologist, the retrospective methods that can bring team members out of their everyday life are particularly valuable. This lets them see things from a different perspective.
This is why I have summarized 4 remote retrospective methods here. The 4 ideas here are a little different, a little unusual, but also work in a remote context.
Remote Retrospective Method 1: Skribbl
The following retrospective method is particularly suitable if you want to have a fun, interactive check-in. This is a check-in that prepares your mindset for the rest of the retrospective.
Most of you will know of this game, but probably not in this remote context yet.
Skribbl is about guessing what others are drawing. That means someone from the team gets a term - for example “Sprint”. He is the only one (possibly apart from the Scrum Master) who knows this term, and now has to draw it as well as they possiblly can.
Things have to be drawn - for example “sprint”. However, the rest of the team/players don't know what the term given was, and have to guess what it is, based on the drawing. This often gives rise to a few creative ideas - and, of course, laughs too!
Here's what you need to do.
- Visit Skribbl.io.
- Create a private room. This is shown at the bottom of the following screenshot.
A private room means that only you and your team are in, and no other online player can join.
Don't forget to fill in your name and choose the right language.
- Next, you will get to the lobby. Here you can set the number of rounds, the language and the time given for each drawing. These options are all on the left side of the following screenshot.
Most importantly: You can also enter your own words to be drawn, so that this remote retrospective method really prepares for your last sprint!
For example, you could have the words “Sprint”, “Customer”, “Daily”, “Product” or “Johannes” (a team member) drawn. Depending on which area you want to get the team ready for, in the rest of the remote retrospective.
You can enter the terms you want to use in the field below and tick the box that comes after it, so that the game only uses words that you have entered.
It is important that you arrange the terms (as described in the field below) with a comma after each one, enter at least four terms and the words have a maximum of 30 characters.
- Next, it's time to share your room with other team members. You have to copy the link to your room at the bottom of the screen (at the bottom of the last screenshot).
Then, you can send it to the other team members. If in doubt, just click on the orange “Copy.”
- If you want to test it by yourself first: Use the incognito mode of your browser (simply open "new incognito tab" or "new private window" in your browser) to share the link with yourself and to have at least two or more players. You can only start the game if you have two players in the room.
- Now you can get started. The game randomly decides who starts. The time is running in the top left. Team members should draw the term they see above as soon as possible.
If the other team members have guessed the term and there is still time left, the next term can be drawn. There is one more point for each correctly guessed term.
Here you can see my unfortunate attempt to draw “Sprint”. Mh, I've never been able to draw.
- Before playing for the first time, I recommend that you share your screen and share the game. The team members should all have briefly seen the screen remotely and understood the basics of the game.
This way, you can also point out the different colors and pen sizes, also that you can write comments as well as answers on the right - which is always a lot of fun. Finally, it is probably also handy to know that the letters of the term you have to guess automatically start appearing above over time if it has not been guessed correctly yet.
- Depending on how much time you have, you can set the game up differently. Either everyone suggests at least one term, or you only have 5 terms prepared and if these were guessed correctly, the game is over.
In principle, that's about it. At best, the game generates a few laughs, and you may discover that someone on the team has a secret talent for drawing.
Something to note is that It is not easy to draw in the tool if you do not have a touchscreen, so I recommend using simpler terms. Team members should have a quick sense of achievement at the beginning of the remote retrospective.
Final notes and psychological reasoning
In theory, for this game, you could also organize yourselves into two sub-teams that compete against each other. To do this, you also have to be able to share the screens accordingly, so that the two teams can view two different screens. This may not possible with every remote video tool.
The nice thing about this game from a psychological point of view, is that it has the same effect as the draw toast exercise: the mental models of the team members of different things - product, sprint, customer - are automatically presented and harmonized through this exercise.
For example, you might notice that a team member associates something negative with “customer” because he chose the color red in his drawing. You can find more about this in my blog post on this retrospective method.
Remote Retrospective Method 2: Who am I?
The second remote retrospective method is not quite as dependent on technology.
If you are unsure whether, for example, everyone knows how to play the game mentioned above, I can recommend the following method or game - a classic: Who am I?
If you don't know the game, here is the basic idea: everyone in the team gets a different character and a different name. You yourself don't know who you are, while others on the team all know who you are.
The goal is to answer who you are, with questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no.”
This game is also best suited as a check-in to get the rest of the remote retrospective going in a fun and interactive way.
The background and process
The nice thing about this remote retrospective method is that you have to put yourself in the shoes of others and take a different perspective. Just like in the exercise before, also getting to know the different mental models of other team members.
Here's how you can do it.
- You write down one (perhaps fictional) person for each team member - but make sure everyone in the team knows who they are. For example, you could write “Donald Trump”, “David Hasselhoff”, “Mowgli”, “Aladdin”, “Biene Maya”, “Justin Bieber” - or the name of your CEO.
Of course, if possible, you should relate the whole thing to your team and your sprint.
In this respect, you can also convert the game and just make a full swap. Everyone on the team just gets the name of another team member!
My recommendation would be both: a couple of team member's names, and a few celebrities. So that it's not so easy to guess who you are.
- Normally, each team member would now stick the name of the person you represent on their head, without seeing who that person is.
Unfortunately, this is quite difficult in a remote context, so here comes the hard part.
You have to hold the name for every team member up to the camera. However, the person himself/herself is not allowed to watch while this happens.
At that moment, each team member must write down who the other people in the team are.
- This way, the foundation should now be laid. Everyone has a name that he or she doesn't know about.
Who starts? The person who is in the video chat at the top right. And then it goes clockwise.
- Everyone asks a question about himself/herself. If the question is answered with “yes”, you can ask another question about yourself - to hopefully get closer and closer to guessing.
For example, if you are Mowgli:
"Am I human?" - Yes.
"Am I a man or a woman?" - must not be answered as there is no yes / no question.
"Am I a man?" - Yes.
"Am I from Europe?" - Not easy. No.
And then you move on to the next person.
- Depending on the time frame, you could play the game until everyone has guessed their character. Or you play until the first one has guessed it, or just have a fixed 10 minutes.
And that is about it. A few laughs are guaranteed in this game too!
As you can imagine, this game cannot be played with a large team. In my estimation and experience, I would play it with a maximum of 8 people.
Remote Retrospective Methods 3: Retro Tools
This will be the shortest part, but should never not be mentioned! As you probably know, there are already many corresponding online tools that have been developed for remote retrospective methods.
But I can most definitely recommend another tool, and do that with conviction - as well as bias, because I was involved in the development of this tool.
With a focus on psychology
Comparison of remote retro tools
|criteria||Echometer||Retrium||Team retro||Fun retro||Parabolic|
|Interactive retrospectives||✅ Yes||✅ Yes||✅ Yes||✅ Yes||✅ Yes|
|Automatically generated retro summaries||✅ Yes||✅ Yes||✅ Yes||✅ Yes||✅ Yes|
|Support of facilitator (e.g. automated check-ins)||✅ Yes||✅ Yes||⚠️ Partially||❌ No||⚠️ Partially|
|Templates for every level of team maturity||✅ Yes||⚠️ Partially||⚠️ Partially||❌ No||❌ No|
|Continuous tracking of measures (from retro to retro)||✅ Yes||⚠️ Partially||⚠️ Partially||❌ No||✅ Yes|
|Team development measured over time||✅ Yes||⚠️ Partially||✅ Yes||❌ No||❌ No|
|Feedback collected in advance (before retro)||✅ Yes||❌ No||❌ No||❌ No||✅ Yes|
|Organizational Health Check||✅ Yes||❌ No||❌ No||❌ No||❌ No|
|Item-pool with psychological nudges (brainstorming)||✅ Yes||❌ No||❌ No||❌ No||❌ No|
|Privacy protection (developed and hosted in Germany)||✅ Yes||❌ No||❌ No||❌ No||❌ No|
Echometer brings the team into a reflection on the right things. At the same time, it helps to make continuous team and organizational health checks and to follow up on previously-set measures.
The basic version is currently free. With this link you can set it up yourself and design your next retrospective with it!
If you are still unsure, you can compare Echometer to other retro tools on this page.
And here you can find agile coach Holger's experiences with our tool as one of our testimonials.
Remote Retrospective Methods 4: The Johari Window
The fourth retrospective method Remote has a slightly different focus. It is not as suitable as the rest as a check-in, but more as an explicit team development workshop.
This method is about developing individual team members in specific ways, and it works particularly well remotely if you use an appropriate tool.
More specifically, this exercise focuses on uncovering blind spots of all team members.
The psychological reasoning
90% of people think they are above-average drivers (Svenson, 1981). 90% of professors consider themselves to be above-average researchers (Cross, 1977).
Can you believe it? 90%! That's pretty unlikely. It seems like we are generally not so self-aware - and have many blind spots.
Knowing this, it makes sense that the more you are aware of your own strengths, weaknesses and trigger points, the better you can work in a team.
Well, let's make sure that you get to know yourself better.
Psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham (1955) have developed a nice method for exactly this - the Johari window. This, I will explain alongside the procedure.
The remote approach
- First, you should explain the background of the exercise. For example, you can present the facts that I just mentioned. In addition to this, the following graphic now comes into play.
The psychologists have developed a graphic with four fields. For example, what do I know about myself, that others also know about (top left on graphic: arena)?
The workshop should help compare the team's perceptions of individual team members, and to make possible blind spots - perhaps both strengths and weaknesses - more visible.
- To get started, it's best to always focus on one team member. For example, let's say we focus on Susanne first.
- After Susanne opens the tool with the link, she has to fill out the Johari window for herself. These instructions are also on the website: You search for 6 terms that best describe one of all these attributes.
It is also not a bad idea for everyone in the team to fill this out at the same time, but it could get a little more complicated in the next step...
- ... because you now have to choose a unique name. The classic names, for example Christian, are usually already taken. You can also think of a code here, that you can memorize quickly.
- The next step is for the others to give their perceptions to Susanne. To do this, Susanne copies the link at the bottom the screen and sends it to all other team members. The screen should look something like this. (Don't ask me why the tool is so dark)
- After the others have also selected the attributes for Susanne, you can see the results through that same link.
- Once the results are available, what's left is a relatively “effective” approach: Susanne tells the others what things she expected to find in the “arena” field.
- Then, Susanne says what surprised her. She perceives herself as “happy”, but no one else does? Interesting. Maybe she always perceives herself as happy, but somehow it doesn't translate in her behavior.
This perception can now be compared with that of the others.
- Here's where you come to the next exciting part: Which are blind spots? Which of the attributes are new for Susanne?
- After this, the other team members should always explain what they have chosen if possible. For a more valuable discussion, name situations that explain your selection.
Here you can ask and discuss many more questions, but the explanation is the most important thing to do.
It is of course important, to pay attention to the feelings of the participants, and everyone must participate voluntarily.
When everyone is done with describing Susanne, the other team members are next.
When in doubt, if there is not enough time, you could have another team member do the exercise every two weeks at the beginning of a retrospective. This way, it remains exciting and varied, and everyone gets the same amount of time.
It is not easy to find good retrospective methods and ideas for remote teams. With these four very different approaches - from playful to more psychologically based - hopefully one of my suggestions could have fit your taste.
Being a psychologist, I published a free eBook on a very similar topic: “12 science based workshops on Team Flow & Mindset Change”.
In it, I have many other psychology-based workshops. You can find more information and download it at this link.