One of my favorite retrospectives is the Superpower Retrospective. When faced with a team that has been together for a while and has done a few retrospectives it can be hard to keep things interesting. The Superpower Retrospective is an excellent way of spicing things up.
With the Superpower Retrospective team members can learn a little bit about themselves and the others on their team. With a psychologically safe environment, a team can thrive with this exercise. Not only can the team discover their strengths from this exercise they can discover their weaknesses as well.
Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the team allows the them to perform better as a unit. They know how to play off of one another strengths while avoiding their weaknesses by using the Superpower Retrospective.
Before diving in to the exercise, you will need to establish guidelines for the team and their participation. The team needs to remember that this is an exercise that is for team building, not team breaking. So keep things positive. Superpowers in a positive light are meant to be heroes. No one wants to be a villain.
Each person writes a superpower for themselves and the others on the team. This could be in the form of post-it notes if meeting in person or in a digital form. Take time for people to write these down. They won’t know them right away. Be sure to write the superpowers in a positive light. Someone who has the tendency to keep things clean and in the right places could be considered organized rather than a neat freak. The Superpower Retrospective is not a place to put people down.
Next the team will take time to share their powers. You may not have a volunteer to go first. This is where you may want to lead by example. Share out what you think your superpower is. Then share what you think the others’ powers are. While listing out the other team members powers, hand them their powers. This will be either a post-it or digital equivalent. Have each team member take a turn sharing.
Finally take time to group them together. Look for themes and how they relate to the work you are doing as a team. What powers could you use more? Which powers could use a boost? The Superpower Retrospective can give the team a boost in a time of need.
Things to look out for
- Watch how the team interacts with one another. Are they sharing things freely or did the team struggle?
- See how freely the conversation flows. If it comes easily this is a sign of a high level of safety.
- Do the powers come easily? Can team members quickly think of their own powers? or the powers of others?
- Are there strong themes when it comes to individual powers? Are there team level themes?
The observations you have here can be leveraged in future retrospectives or used to remind the team of their strengths when they are struggling.