5 Remote Energizer Tips That Will Make Your Remote Retrospectives Rock

Do you remember how people who are not used to the phone tend to shout in it, for the message to get far ? Read on and I’ll explain how this silly habit will make your remote retrospectives great !

A typical retrospective starts with an energizing activity, or energizer. It’s important for two reasons. First, people who don’t speak during the first 5 minutes of a meeting are more likely to remain silent until the end. Second, getting everyone to do an energizing and fun activity sets the tone for a peaceful and creative time.

Remote control + magnifying glass

Our experiences with remote energizers

When we started to do retrospectives at work, all the team was co located in Paris. There are tons of activities available on the internet to run effective energizers. We could do games like Fizz Buzz, or drawing based activities like face drawing and visual phone. It was easy and fun.

A few years ago, Ahmad Atwi joined our team from Beirut. Our catalog of energizer shrank to a few activities that we could run remotely. On top of that, going through the remote medium made it more challenging for energizers to … energize ! With time and trial, we managed to understand what works and how to pick the right energizer for a remote team.

Principles for remote energizers

We have an Agile Special Interest Group at Murex, where volunteers meet to share things they find interesting. A few weeks ago, during one of these sessions, we discussed remote energizers in a Lean Coffee.

Here are the points we came up with.

The Agile Retrospectives, making good teams great book cover

  • If they are enough teammates at every place, energizers that play in small groups will work well. For example, it would be easy to organize a balloon battle or a back to back.

The Agile Retrospectives, making good teams great book cover

  • It’s also easy to use variations on an activity that proved effective. For example, explore new kinds of questions. It’s even ok to repeat verbatim an activity from time to time.
  • Replace energizing by team building. Team building is particularly important for remote teams. Instead of engaging activities, it’s ok to have everyone share a personal anecdote. By knowing each other better, the team can build trust. For example, you could introduce such an activity with : “What book would you bring on a desert island ? Why ?”
  • One last thing we came up with my colleague Morgan Kobeissi to energize a remote meeting is to YELL. The idea is to ask everyone to answer a question while standing and yelling. A question could be “How long have you been working and what companies did you work for ?”

Someone yelling in a kid's 'can-phone'

Remote work is here to stay. More and more teams are facing similar difficulties. We need to invent new work practices. If you discovered new ways to run remote energizer, please share them with a comment.

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