Several of our customers have asked for “really creative ways” to use our Agile retrospectives meeting tool. Challenge accepted!

Most people are familiar with the wildly popular (and wildly inappropriate) party game Cards Against Humanity. That game was based on concepts introduced by the family game Apples to Apples.

Several years ago at the 2015 RallyOn! Conference, I presented an Agile Retrospective technique based on these games (PDF). Several other folks have also come up with variations on this idea (Cards for Agility, Cards Against Agility, Retros Against Humanity).

We’ve added our version of “Retrospectives Against Humanity” to Instant Agenda as one of our new Category Templates. Instant Agenda makes it easy and fun to play this game and improve your team at the same time. Our blind ideation and anonymous posting make it a blast whether your team is co-located or distributed. Best of all – you don’t have to do any setup or work – we’ve done it for you.

How the Game Works

If you have played Apples to Apples, or Cards Against Humanity, you know how the concept works. If you haven’t played either of these, I would recommend reading Tasty Cupcakes description of Cards Against Agility.  Their version describes how to adapt the game to retrospectives.

how to play cards against agilityWhy use this as a Retrospective?

Retrospectives are a powerful way to improve as a team, but they can easily get repetitive and lose their power. This game makes for a fun experience and also gives the team a chance to talk about their most recent sprint in an entertaining and productive way. Or, maybe it’s just fun. We suggest using this approach occasionally, particularly if the team just needs to blow off some steam.

How to Play (Using Instant Agenda)

Playing the game using Instant Agenda requires a few changes to rules to accommodate online play and the functionality available in the tool.

In general, Instant Agenda retrospectives let team members ideate within some number of defined categories. You can edit these as needed, or apply a category template. We’ve predefined a “Retrospectives Against Humanity” template that you can use, or you can create your own.

Here is how we do it:

  1. If you haven’t already created a retrospective meeting space for your team in Instant Agenda, do that now.
    Note: For each team, you’ll want to reuse the same retrospective space indefinitely so that you can see your team’s history, decisions, action items and polls over time. You CAN run a different retrospective format each time within the same retrospective space.
  2. Within your team’s retrospective meeting space, clear the retro board of any pre-existing topics. This is necessary each time you want to apply a new category template.
  3. From within your meeting space, click the “category templates” button to view available retrospective templates. From the list of templates, select “Retrospectives Against Humanity” and apply it to your meeting.
  4. You should now see a number of columns with open-ended prompts like, “This iteration was going well, right up until the point that ________”
  5. Make sure that you have both “Blind Ideation” and “Anonymous Ideation” turned on. You can change these properties under the “Advanced” tab of your meeting settings.
  6. Start your meeting. During ideation, have each attendee submit one idea to complete each category prompt.
  7. Proceed to the Voting step of the meeting. Either have everyone vote on their favorite response to each prompt OR assign one person to each category to vote for their favorite in that category.
  8. Proceed to the Discussion step of the meeting, and discuss the results of each prompt. Talk about why the voted response is most accurate, most funny, etc. Take action items or record decisions as necessary.

How you use this approach is up to you. You can treat it purely as comic relief, or you can have a semi-serious discussion about the responses, creating follow-up action items or decisions. Just because it’s fun doesn’t mean it can’t be productive.

If Retrospectives Against Humanity goes well – we’ll create more category prompts. You can also create and save your own category templates for use with your teams.

Good luck!


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Michael Ball

Co-founder, Product Lead at Instant Agenda
Michael was born a squalling, helpless MVP and has struggled ever since to obtain product-market fit. Experiments have included Peace Corps volunteer, ops engineer, scrum master, product owner, agile coach, husband, father, armchair philosopher, and, most recently, lean startup founder. Michael is still working on his exit-strategy, but his earliest angel investors seem generally proud of his accomplishments.
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