One Word – A great way to check-in and see how people are feeling

Do you have members of your team that are often quiet or say very little in meetings, workshops or retrospectives, even though you know they could provide good input to the conversation?

I’ve experienced this recently with a team I’ve been working with and thought I’d try a little ice breaker before we began our most recent retrospective.

The ice breaker was a quick check-in activity called One Word, with an aim of getting people to share how they are feeling before deep diving into the main session (in our case a retrospective).

How to run the activity?

  1. Give each person in the room a pen/sharpie and a post-it.
  2. Set the context for everyone “On the post-it provided please describe how you felt about the last sprint using one word”.
  3. Ask the team to place and group the post-its on an open canvas or whiteboard.
  4. Ask everyone to share their word and why they wrote it, or just simplify share just their word.

What did we learn?

This is a great activity to get everyone involved in a meeting/workshop/retrospective early, and at the very least gets each person to speak once.

From our session we had a range of feelings which has really insightful, and everyone elaborated on their word when they were asked if they’d like to share. Running this activity prior also encouraged more people to open up during our retrospective which followed directly after.


We also kept the canvas we used to collect the teams thoughts and placed it near our wall, so that we could keep it visible and reflect back on them next time we do the one word activity.

The added bonus of keeping the canvas and making it visible was during our recent Gemba walk with our key stakeholders, we were able to talk to it and give them an insight into how the team are feeling.


If you are interested to know more I found this activity on the Fun Retrospectives website.
Alternatively check out the Agile Retrospective book by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen who describe this activity as the Check-in activity.

This entry was posted in Agile, Agile Board Hacks, Culture, Digital, People, Retro, Retrospectives, Scrum, Teams and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to One Word – A great way to check-in and see how people are feeling

  1. Pingback: One Last Word | Jay Hyett

  2. Pingback: Speaking at LAST Conference 2016 | Jay Hyett

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