Priority Race - A Game for Effective Retrospectives

I will introduce a game I invented for facilitating effective and active retrospectives. As every experienced ScrumMaster knows, it is not only important to prioritize (or more correctly: order) your product backlog, but it is also important to prioritize your impediments. This game can help you, making retrospectives more active and fun while obtaining a good order for your impediments.

Material: Non-transparent tape, Scotch tape, flashcards or sticky notes (red and green), flipchart marker, wall or big table

Preparation: Before the retrospective begins, you will have to search for a wall, where you can draw some vertical lanes with your tape. You can alternatively use a large table, which is the second best option. Mark the lanes as follows:

Initial setting: Draw some vertical lanes on a wall (this is the "race track")
It often helps, to put numbers at the top of every column (you can do this easily, using post-its).

How the game works

Step 1: Split your team into several groups of approximately four people. The groups then collect positive and negative feedback on cards (you can alternatively let everybody bring his own feedback, but I like having initial conversations in small groups).

Step 2: Let the groups explain their feedback and put the cards on the wall/table. At the same time, group the feedback cards to clusters of equivalent topics.

Step 3: Put all card clusters to the starting line of your race track, that is position 0, as depicted below.

Put the impediments and things that work fine in the first column (column 0)

Step 4: Now everybody has to execute two moves with green and two moves with red cards. I.e. advance one card two columns to the right or two cards one column with every color. Everybody should try to get her favourite feedback cards as far as possible to the right (but at most two steps). Do this until everybody executed four moves. You can either let the participants do their moves one after another or at the same time (which saves time).

Player 1 advances two green cards one column and a red card two columns

Player 2 moves two green cards one column to the right, and so does he with two red cards

Done: The result will be, that all cards are distributed on the racing track. The distribution is not arbitrary, but reflects the prioritization of the issues in the team.

All Players moved four steps: Prioritization is done.

You are now free, to continue with your retrospective, going through the feedback from the right to the left. You can also take a fixed number of green and red cards to focus on in the remainder of your retrospective or take the order as input for your impediment backlog.

You could now focus on the top three cards for further discussion
Hint: You should do some computation before starting the game: Depending on the number of participants you should adapt the number of columns or/and the number of allowed card moves to do for every participant.

You can also use this mechanism for prioritizing any other kind of material (even your backlog) with a larger group of people. I used this game with up to 20 people, prioritizing up to 20 items.

Real world example: Initial setting
Real world example: Result

The great advantage over prioritization with dots or other markers on the cards is, that the result is immediately clear and much more intuitive and visible. No counting - just looking!

Just try it - and if you have any ideas for improvements, different applications, variations, or positive or negative experiences I will be deeply grateful for any comments.