I was invited by one of our London dev teams to facilitate their retrospective yesterday. I’m far from an expert in facilitating retros, although I enjoy it, and I find that I learn a huge amount from doing so.
Anyhow, I decided to try out my retro ice-breaker exercise which I call Empathy Snap, the aim of which is not only to discover the important features (‘big hitters’) of the last iteration for each team member, but also to see how well team members are aware of the big hitters of their fellow team members. In this way, aspects of the team dynamic can be explored, and dialogue is opened up in a way which immediately requires consideration of others – a useful starting point for a retrospective.
Empathy Snap works like this:
- Each team member gets two index cards and a marker pen.
- On the first card, hidden from the others, they write the ‘big hitter’ (good or bad) for them from the last iteration, and keep this hidden from view for the time being
- On the second card they write their name at the top and place this second card on the table or hand it to the facilitator.
- Once all team members have handed in their ‘name card’, each team member takes a name card from the pile, ensuring they do not have their own name card.
- On this card, they write what they think is the ‘big hitter’ for the person whose name is on the card, and keep the card. Essentially, they try to guess what that person has written on their hidden card.
- Once all the ‘name cards’ have been completed with a ‘big hitter’, a team member reads out the name of the team member written on the card and their guess at the ‘big hitter’ for that person.
- The named person then reads out what their big hitter actually was.
- If there is a match, then SNAP!
- The exercise continues until all team members have read out their guess and have responded with their actual big hitter
We had one SNAP out of the team of 8 (the red asterisks), but the mismatches also provide very useful insights into the team dynamic:
The team found it useful, so I think we’ll try it next time too. A variation of the exercise can use separate cards for ‘good’ and ‘bad’ big hitters, so doubling the number of cards, and requiring each team member to decide on a good and a bad thing for the person they are considering.