Boring retrospectives – part 11 : 3 warm up exercises

How do you start a retrospective?  Can you just ask your team what’s going wrong and what ideas they’re having to improve the current process?

Of course not, you ‘ll receive a blank stare and if lucky an ironic “Euh, let me think…”

As a retrospective facilitator, you have to help people to start the creative thinking process.  A good way to get people ready is by hosting a warm-up exercise.

During one of our community meetings at my current client, people shared these exercises:

3 questions


Write down these 3 questions on a flip chart:

  • What do you expect of this retrospective?
  • How do you feel?
  • Compare yourself to a car brand?

Ask everyone to prepare themselves for 2 minutes to answer these questions.

Finally, one participant at a time, shares his answers with the group.

The purpose of this exercise is to explore expectations and current feelings, but also to get people speaking.  This way they’re more likely to actively participate later.

Ball toss


Create a circle with all participants and bring one ball.  The one who holds the ball says a word and tosses it to a random participant who immediately says the first word that comes into mind and tosses again to another participant, etc.

Keep tossing for a couple of minutes, making sure every participant has had a couple of tosses.

The purpose is to energize the participants, clear their heads and open their minds for creative thinking.

1 positive, 1 negative


Ask each participant to write down 1 positive and 1 negative experience from the previous sprint on separate post-its (they should be briefly described).

When everybody is finished, ask them to hand their positive experience to the person on their left and their negative experience to the person on their right.

Next, each participant reads the post-its he has received out loud and tries to explain them.  Afterwards their neighbour corrects if necessary.

The purpose of this game is to get people back in the mindset of the previous sprint.  If also helps people to understand each other and create empathy.

These 3 exercise are typically used in the beginning of a retrospective as a warm-up.

photo credit: CarbonNYC B Tal cc

About Nick Oostvogels

Hi, I'm an independent management consultant. My biggest strengths are located in the fields of teamwork, motivation, leadership and continuous improvement. In the IT industry you find a lot of these values in the agile movement, in which I often act as a project leader, product owner or coach. My interests go a lot further, into other industries where we find these values in lean production. Besides that, I try to broaden my horizon as much as possible, always looking for better ways of doing business.

One comment

  1. Hi Nick, really liked your post 🙂 Congrats… Me and Ben Linders wrote a pocket book with Esther Derby´s foreword to help teams to get better on Agile Retrospectives maybe you to take a look into it:


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