Our Empathy Survey Says – Awesome Retro

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This retro is designed to create the circumstances for empathy to grow within the team in a fun way whilst also generating improvement ideas. If you were to use Esther Derby’s retrospective model it could be a gathering data exercise. It tends to take about half an hour dependant on the size of the team.

Length of time:

30-60 min, dependent on the size of the team and how much you'd like to discuss and agree the resulting improvement ideas.

Short Description:

The retro uses a fun gameshow format, where the team answer a series of questions and then take turns to guess each others' responses. The answers include improvement ideas, which can then be discussed and possibly agreed on as retro actions.


A stack of post its (at least 10) for each team member and ensure you have pens which will not be seen through light post its. For once maybe Sharpies are not the pen of choice. A Biro will do.

A whiteboard, flip chart, or some other way to get instructions and game board on the wall (e.g. blu tack and A4 sheets).


I have found it useful to write these instructions on a whiteboard or flip chart before people arrive for the retro:


It is useful to also create the scoreboard something like this…



1. Introduce the exercise and ask team members to write:

  • An improvement idea on the second post it
  • Something which went well in the last sprint on the forth post it
  • Your favourite band or type of music on the sixth post it
  • What you would have for your last meal should you be about to be executed on the eight post it
  • and finally on the ninth their name

Feel free to change the last two questions based on the culture or personalities of the team if you feel it would be more beneficial to ask about favourite car, colour, favourite holiday destination then go for it.

2. Once they have filled them in have them hand them to you as the facilitator and place on the board. Making sure not to reveal what is written place post its one and two in the improvements column for the participant who handed you the cards. Again making sure not to reveal what is written place the 3rd and 4th in the gone well column and so on until you have the 9th name post it left. Fold the name post it up and place in a hat or container for participants to pick from later. Do this for each participant's stack of post its until you have a complete board. Pic of a completed board with all revealed is below.

3. Once the board is compete invite the first person to pick a name from the hat. If they get there own name ask them to re-draw until they get someone other than themselves. Write the guessers name in the points column on the board on the far right.

4. Ask the guesser to think what improvement would this person wants and take a guess. Reveal the answer and award a point if they got it right. Continue through each of the post its on that row until the guesser has had a guess at each.

Empathy-survey-example-1.jpg Empathy-survey-example-2.jpg

I found it a bit of fun to say our survey says before the big reveal….. We also awarded half points at the discretion of the person whose line was being guessed for example if someone guessed lamb curry and that person had lamb madras we gave half a point or if someone said Venga Boys but we had Backstreet Boys we gave half a point for the word boys being in there.

5. Continue onto the next person in the team repeating step 4 until you have a complete board.

6. Tot up the scores and give the winner a pat on the back

For people who are very new to the team it may be useful to open up to the rest of the team for help. On occasion i have even introduced a steal concept particularly around the band for 1/2 a point.

Generating insights and Deciding what to do

We then move quickly into dot voting to decide what to focus on and selected one item to brainstorm ideas and select some actions taking about 30 mins. I usually stand by a flip chart for this and write and draw what people are talking about. Then we assign one or more actions and owners for each. Retro Done.


Copied, with kind permission, from Stephen Mounsey's blog: https://sketchandscrum.com/2017/10/27/our-empathy-survey-says-awesome-retro/

Stephen's blog notes "This retro is a combination of different ideas and retrospectives. A huge thank you has to go out to ex-semi pro rugby league player Simon Chippendale for the co-creation."