ResourcesSprint Retrospective Ideas

Team Boxing

“Team Boxing” is a simple retrospective or team building session that you can run with teams of any size. You can add in plenty of twists to spice things up and bring more energy to the session or keep it a bit more relaxed.

You should use this exercise when you already have a focus in mind, but are unsure how to get the team to contribute towards solving it.

By the end of the exercise everyone in the team will have had the opportunity to contribute ideas and openly debate them within the team.

Tools Required

  • Team Boxing template – A page with a question on it followed by 4, 8 or 16 “idea boxes” for the team to add their responses (example attached).
  • Alternatively you can draw the template on a white board and use post it notes.
  • Blue & Red labels
  • Blue & Red seats
  • A way of marking each idea with blue/red – eg stickers/pens
  • Boxing gloves (optional)
  • 2 Towels (optional)
  • Nerf guns (optional)
  • Marshmellows/sweets (optional)

Method

Before beginning the exercise, the Scrum Master should reflect on which question they feel will add value to the exercise.

Perhaps using unanswered questions from previous retros – or asking a probing question to get insight in to problem areas:

eg: What could we do to remove some of our external dependencies?
eg: How can we improve the team dynamic?
eg: What is the biggest thing slowing the team down right now?


  1. Set up the room or area so it is clear that there is a “blue corner” and a “red corner“.

  2. Introduce the exercise by giving some background on the question(s) that are being asked. Why did we pick this question to try to solve?

    Hand out 1 or more of the question sheets, depending on how many ideas you want to get.


  3. Each person in the team must write down an idea to address the problem or question being raised in a box. They are not allowed to repeat an idea someone else has written. Allow 5 minutes for this part.

    Once all ideas are in – cut the idea cards out and label them blue or red (the same number of each).


  4. Now comes the fun part. The ideas will be pitted off against each other in 1 on 1 intellectual combat in a knockout tournament.

    One blue idea will face off against one red idea (change the labels each round if needed).

    The boxers whose ideas are in the ring have 30 seconds each round, and up to 3 rounds to argue why they think their idea is better (wear the boxing gloves at this point to get in the mood).


  5. All team members who are not contributing to the debate have to vote on whose idea they think is best by running to their chosen teams corner and standing behind their boxer.

    They can support their team by suggesting questions they think will break through the defense or add some supporting facts.

    The winning idea is the person with the most people after 3 rounds, or they can land the knockout blow by leaving someone with no supporters in their corner. A boxer can also throw in the towel if they can see there’s just no way of winning.


  6. Continue the exercise by pitting ideas and boxers against each other until you have 1-2 ideas that you declare the winners that you will action going forwards. You can award a championship title to the winner – to be challenged next time.

Spice things up: Letting the boxer in the ring call for a sub from their supporting team members to help their fight. Nerf guns to fire shots at the opponents when you land a blow – or if you’re a greedy team, try marshmellows for a tasty take on boxing. The Scrum Master can act as the announcer/referee to create a lively atmosphere.

More relaxed/quicker: Once everyone has their ideas down. Pass the sheet round again and dot vote on the favourites.

Challenging Questions

If you feel the team aren’t asking difficult enough questions of each other, feel free to jump in and suggest a challenging question to one of the boxers to ask in the next round.

E.g. “will this idea really solve the problem we are facing?”

Takeaways

The team should come away from the exercise feeling energised that they have all contributed to coming up with some great ideas that will lead to positive action going forwards.

The exercise can help people think critically about their own ideas and should help the team ask probing questions of each other and get them used to this approach outside of the exercise too.

Let us know how you get on with the Team Boxing retrospective!

Team Boxing example template

Luke Short

Luke has 5 years experience across a range of product delivery roles. Most recently his focus has been on helping teams and businesses achieve success as an Agile Coach and Scrum Master.

His mission is to create happier and more productive teams. He hopes his place on the Agile Avengers will help others achieve their own goals.

SUPERPOWERS | Movie quotes. Dad jokes. Basic knowledge of everything.
KRYPTONITE | Gantt charts. Milkshakes. Actual Kryptonite.

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