Building a New Team Using Retrospectives Exercises

building an agile teamBuilding a new team can be challenging. People have to learn and get to know each other, and agree upon how they will be collaborating as a team. Retrospective exercises can be used for chartering teams, to define shared goals, agree upon the way of working, and start off properly.

As a retrospective facilitator you want to have a toolbox of retrospective exercises to design and facilitate agile retrospectives effectively.  Here are some examples of retrospective exercises that you can use when starting up and building a new team.


The sailboat exercise, described in our book Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives, can be used to define a shared goal and explore how to get there:

You can use a sail boat retrospective exercise with a team to agree upon the team goal and to explore what is needed to reach that goal. This metaphor exercise includes “wind” to collect things that can help you to reach the goal, and an “anchor” to discuss things that might slow you down.

I’ve done the sailboat exercise with many teams. It’s a simple yet powerful exercise that helps teams to get started. It helps team member to speak up, and it’s fun to do it.


Teams can do a futurespective to define their goals and find ways to reach them:

In a futurespective teams places themselves in the future by imagining that their goal has been reached. Team start such retrospectives by discusses their goals to assure that team members build a common understanding.  The goals are formulated and written down so that they are visible for everybody. Next teams discuss their imaginary past and explore how they have gotten to their goals.

I’ve been amazed many times on the results that came out of futurespectives, both on the number of things and the quality of them. It’s an exercise that I use to inspire teams and empower them. It’s also great for risk management.

Core Qualities

The Core Qualities Exercise is mostly used in established teams to recognize strengths:

This exercise can be used by agile teams in their retrospective to explore the strengths of their team and individual team members and define actions to become better in what they do.

But it can also be used to build a new team. For that purpose you will use the list of qualities to come to an agreement which qualities are needed to get the job done and to identify the qualities of all team members.

If there’s a gap between the needed and available qualities then the team can discuss how to develop those qualities.

All retrospectives are unique

cover-getting-value-out-of-agile-retrospectives-600-900My successful book Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives provides different retrospective exercises that you can use to design retrospectives. It’s a toolbox for agile coaches and Scrum masters which helps them to facilitate retrospectives that deliver benefits to the teams that you work with.

Building a new team can be challenging, but it’s also a great opportunity to start off properly. There is no single retrospective exercise that always gives the best results. You can plan a retrospective meeting and think about the exercises that you want to use, but always be open to changing it on the spot whenever needed.

Ben Linders

I help organizations with effective software development and management practices. Active member of several networks on Agile, Lean and Quality, and a frequent speaker and writer.

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