Valentine’s Retrospectives for Digital Teams

Holly Davis is the Delivery Director at Deeson. You can find Holly on Twitter @ProjectDavis.

Wait, hear me out. I know what you’re all thinking: cringe, inappropriate. Take a second to get rid of all your preconceptions and embrace this once in a year opportunity to hug a developer.

A photo of a small monkey hugging a large white bird.
You didn’t expect to see this today did you. Mini-monkey hugz.

No, in all seriousness, why not try a new format and use Valentine’s as an arbitrary day in the year to do something special with your team to show you appreciate them.

I was planning a retrospective for my team this week using the rather awesome Retr-O-Mat tool and ended up serendipitously with half of the activities screaming Valentine’s at me, so I ran with it.

So here’s a format and some activities you can try for yourself. Expect a bit of nervous laughter and spontaneous blushing but if you gauge it right you can also expect a happy and positive team at the end of it too.

1. Participants express what they admire about one another

Start a round of admiration by facing your neighbour and stating ‘What I admire most about you is…’ Then your neighbour says what she admires about her neighbour and so on until the last participant admires you. Feels great, doesn’t it?

2. The four Ls

Explore what people loved, learned, lacked and longed for individually.

A photo of a collection of post-it notes stuck to a board.
You had me at Hello World.

Each person brainstorms individually for each of these 4 questions:

  1. What I loved.
  2. What I learned.
  3. What I lacked.
  4. What I longed for.

Collect the answers on post-it notes, read all notes, identify patterns and discuss findings within the group.

3. Wish granted*

A fairy grants you a wish – how do you know it came true?

A photo of post-its surrounding a sign saying make a wish
You know you’re a Digital Project Manager when your wish relates to Burndown Charts.

Give participants two minutes to silently ponder the following question: ‘A fairy grants you a wish that will fix your biggest problem at work overnight. What do you wish for?’

Follow up with: ‘You come to work the next morning. You can tell that the fairy has granted your wish. How do you know? What is different now?’

If trust within the group is high, let everyone describe their ‘Wish granted’ workplace. If not, just tell the participants to keep their scenario in mind during the next phase and suggest actions that work towards making it real.

*This is where we took a slight deviation, this activity can be swapped with Speed Dating (#26) if you want to stay on theme!

4. The pitch

Ideas for actions compete for two available ‘Will do’ slots.

Ask everyone to think of two changes they’d like to implement and write them down on separate post-its. Draw a line down the middle of a whiteboard.

The first team member puts their favourite idea on one side of the board and their neighbour puts their favourite into the other half. Another team member then has to pitch their favourite idea against the one they favour less on the whiteboard.

If the team prefers the pitched idea, it’s swapped with the one on the board. This continues until everyone has presented both their cards.

We found it difficult to only keep two actions on the wall so ended up with about four on the board. I guess that’s the point but it did help the team prioritise and limit the amount of actions, making improvements more achievable.

Optional extras:

  • Create a Spotify playlist.
  • Make cupcakes or something tasty.
  • Say it with flowers! Round off the session by giving every team member a flower, then encourage them to pass it onto someone else in the team / wider company as a token of their appreciation.

*If flowers are a step too far, you could set up a Valentine’s post box and encourage team members to anonymously post short message of encouragement or kudos to other team member. Distribute them at the end so they can be taken away and read in private!

Let me know if you decide to brave any of these activities with your team and how you get on :)