Ridiculously Useful Power Retro: The Artsy retro.

A creative and focused retro, for mature teams – maximum size: 7 (storming and norming) – take a look at our impressive and remarkable gallery below!


Let’s face it, retro’s can get a bit stale. So it’s good to jazz it up once in a while. So if you are feeling adventurous, you might want to try an Artsy retro.

I would recommend this retro for teams that have known each other a while, not for newly formed teams, unless you know that the individuals won’t feel judged.

The concept is that you ask the team to draw an art work that is a visual representation of the previous sprint of what happened, how did feel, etc. They can be as creative as they want, it can be in any style that they want (realism, abstract, comic book, etc.)

Because you are talking to the creative side of their brain, it is easier for the team to remember what happened in the previous sprint and to freely express their thoughts. It also distances the emotions and allows the information to surface without holding back. Another advantage is that is gets the team members to focus on the highest priority elements. With the traditional, what went well and what didn’t, sometimes you end up with a massive list filled with complaints, venting, jokes, … and it can be good to get that out, but it can be very helpful to do a more focused retro where the topics are narrowed down from the start.

In addition, it helps with team building because there will be funny drawings, skilled drawings, original drawings. It keeps it light but focused and it gives you an additional insight into your team members.

Once everyone is finished drawing (timebox it to 10 minutes), everyone gets a chance to present their artwork and explain what it represents. The other team members can ask questions. Make sure you pay attention to the details, those usually hold very interesting and valuable information, not always, but it’s good to explore!

Here are a few examples inspired by previous retro’s I’ve done, the artwork isn’t the real artwork but is used to provide a clear illustration. Enjoy our gallery:

  • The roller coaster: This is a common one, it shows there have been highs and lows in the last sprint. But in this case, there is more to it, notice the happy face and the slightly frightened face? Most likely the person that drew this has something more they want to communicate. In this case, the person who drew it, was newer to the team, pairing with someone very confident who wasn’t phased by the challenges, which in turn made it difficult for him to feel like he was contributing to the team, he felt like has was just along for the ride, not able to contribute fully to the team yet. As a result, the team spoke about this, reassured him he was adding value and that they have all been there, it just takes time. As an action, they agreed to give immediate and honest feedback to each other, so that, as team members, we never have to guess what others are thinking, we can rely on our team to be a supportive network built on integrity and real team work. rollercoaster.PNG
  • Desert Island: With this one, the drawing represented how this particular developer felt very isolated from the team because of what he was working on. He was the only one with that particular skills, there was quite a bit of time pressure and he ended up working pretty much in a silo. The house represented that he felt like this had gone on for quite a while and he’s always the one having to take this type of work on. The boat represented that it’s not all bad, from time to time the other team members do check in on him and ask if he needs help, which he really appreciates, but he would like it to change now. As a result, the team agreed to pair on this work so that more and more people can work on it and while pairing, they were going to look for solutions on how more of this work could potentially be automated.desertIsland
  • The carrier: This was a very interesting one, it was created by a lead developer. He felt like he was carrying all the weight in the sprints but up till now had been reluctant to talk about it. The guns represented how he felt he always needed to be the one that defended all the decisions. And even though he was happy doing this and also felt it was part of his job, he was worried that there was too much relying on him and the other team members were left behind. As an action, this team decided to identify at Sprint planning or refinement which items could safely be taken on by someone else with the lead dev taking a background seat with the aim of slowly getting every one up to speed.carrier

While you discuss the art work, you start creating the common topics and put the post it notes on the board in order of priority (the more common themes get moved to the top). The scrum master can do this, or you can agree as a team that you all help with identifying the themes and writing it on post it notes.

Once the themes are visible, you can get the team to switch to solution mode. Because the brain is in creative mode, it will be easier to get the team to focus on solutions to problems and discover actions.

This format is best suited for teams with a maximum of 7 members because it can take a bit of time to go through the art work, so make sure you have that time.

This can also be done for distributed teams, just let people know in advance to have pen and paper handy. Get the members to hold up the art work in front of the camera or take a picture and post it in the Slack or Hipchat or any other team communication tool.

We would love to hear about your experiences with this artsy retro. As always, feel free to post pictures of the art work here to share with our community!

Have fun!



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