Retrospective: “Zombie style” – Adding more openess and personal stuff to a retro

I also will share experiences on retrospectives, e.g. different retrospective formats or parts / aspects of retrospectives, on this blog.

And the start will be some of my experiences with using ideas from the Zombie Apocalypse Retrospective.

Where we came from…

Our team consists of 8 people (5 developers, 2 students, 1 teamlead) and has been started with the teamlead and one developer 1,5 years ago. Four more developers (including me) then joined the team – and last year in autumn we finally were complete. I started working for this team in May 2015 and I am responsible for facilitating and leading our retrospectives. This actually is fun and it is also demanding – especially as I am also a developer in my team. This is why I wear “two hats” – one as a facilitator and one as a team member – especially in the retrospectives. Concerning retro formats, we already experimented with different variations of Mad/Sad/Glad and we were doings different sorts of Sailboat- and Starfish retrospectives. By choosing a retrospective topic two retros ago we already managed to set a better focus and therefore have more valuable discussions and outcomes.

Why do I chose “Zombie style”?

One tiny little thing came up during the last two months: the team figured out that our retrospectives could be “more open” and maybe could get a more personal touch. Not just focusing on pressing technical or process hurdles. So I thought a while and gathered some ideas. From Daniel and Udo who I met at Agile Coach Camp and CoRe Day – I heard about the Zombie retrospective format. Sadly we hadn’t time to discuss in detail yet, so I read through a blogpost on the Zombie Apocalypse Retrospective. It sounded fun & playful. The needed seriousness would be easy for me to add together with my team.

Walk what you talk

So I decided to try out the Zombie “thing” and adapt the idea to our needs. This also meant starting with openess by showing myself a bit more open. Even if I did not know anything about Zombie films and the like, I searched & found some “nice” Zombie pictures and also tried some own painting on the board. Here it is: our very first Zombie board:


At a glance, my goals were:

  • get the team talking and listening to each other
  • get us all a bit more open (by talking about the cards to write & pin to the board)
  • have some fun in the retro together
  • try something new with the team

I was unsure if everyone, especially the juniors, would be satisfied and if their voice would be heard well enough if the team writes cards together as a team. I also wondered if a certain retro topic (we had this the 2nd time) and a new retro format wouldn’t be too much.

In the end we did a short “retro of the retro” where everybody shared his thoughts about the last hour spent together as a team. They especially liked that the cards were co-created by talking & listening to each other. They also liked the playful aspect. And we also found out that we managed focusing on our specific retro topic almost along the way.

How about you?

What do you think of this retrospective? What are your experiences with trust & openess in teams?