Retrospective icebreakers can serve more than one purpose. On one hand you are looking to break down barriers and encourage the team to communicate (which will pay dividends in the retrospective that follows the icebreaker), but you can also use the icebreaker to help people focus on what happened over the last sprint.
With this as my aim, I created an icebreaker that worked out so well, that I thought I had to share it.
The Story of My Sprint
Around a table, get people working in pairs to add a story to a comic strip in order to represent the sprint (or an aspect of the sprint) that they have just completed.
After this is done, the pairs read out their comic to the group. It is important that all of the pairs are given the same comic strip so that you can appreciate the different stories that the pairings are applying to the same illustrations.
Example: Below are the results of this ice-breaker from my scrum team
Instructions : Prep Work
- Find a comic strip which has enough panels to fill a single sheet of A4 with enough room in the gutters for dialogue or descriptions to be written. Feel free to choose something obscure so the team writes their own story as opposed to regurgitating a known dialog. (the example I used was from 'One Punch Man').
- Edit out any existing text and dialogue. (This allows people to add their own dialogue and framing without being constrained by the 'original' story that the comic strip conveyed)
- Print your comic strip onto A4 so that you have enough for every 2 people in the scrum team (print some spare just in case, but keep them out of sight unless they are needed).
- Make sure you have plenty of pens!!
Instructions : The Session
- Place several copies of the comic strip onto the table, and let the team know what they are looking at. If the comic strip you chose is one that you are familiar with, you get a relatively easy way of introducing it. As usual you want this exercise to appear like a natural thing to do. Don't tell the group what the 'actual story' is; if the original story was about Batman stealing a car, you may get theft as a theme to everyone's stories which would corrupt the sprint stories.
- Ask everyone to get into pairs. You know your team best but be aware that the story should be the product of co-operation for each pair.
- Ask the pairs to take a comic strip and a couple of pens, and try and write a story based on the sprint that has just been completed. Let them know that they have 5 mins to get their story written down. Feel free to continue your coaching and coaxing through this period; you can tell them it doesn't matter whether the story describes a single event, overall feeling or anything else, as long as it is based on the sprint. Also feel free to be quiet and allow the room to be filled with the noise of the pairs coming up with their stories. Feel free to write one yourself, this might be helpful in the next phase of this icebreaker.
- Now that all of the stories have been written, it is time to share them. If your team are a bit reluctant, this is where having your own story comes into play. Set an example and read/narrate your story to the group, if you want your team to express them selves, this is how you set the example. Trace the story panels with your finger as you read it, this will enable the team to follow the story more easily. With the example set, ask the pairings to, in turn, read their stories out loud, with as much gusto as possible.
- Congratulate everyone on their stories.
- Declare that there were some interesting things that were covered in the stories and that they might help us focus on what we feel worked well and what we may want to change as we move into the main part of the retrospective.
Hopefully this pre-retrospective icebreaker works as well for you as it did for us. We found it a great way to get everyone communicating and was a fun way to remind ourselves of some of the things that happened in the sprint that may otherwise been forgotten about.