Turn your team into problem-solving superheroes at your next retrospective using the Secret Ingredient
Quentin Tarantino, JK Rowling, and Eminem
rely on to make hundreds of millions of dollars
Dear Overwhelmed Scrum Master,
There’s nothing worse than feeling like your team is bored or tuned out during a retrospective…or that you’re pulling teeth to get them to share ideas, come up with solutions, or even talk.
When retrospectives happen this way, they’re worse than pointless. They're a waste of your team's time and energy — not to mention your company's money.
Even worse, over time they can lead to a disengaged and demotivated team that doesn’t improve or self-organize.
So what’s a determined, passionate agilist to do?
While you could grab some ideas from the internet and throw them together right before your next retro, chances are your team will notice. And they’d likely lead to the same tired meetings and lack of results.
To pull off a successful retrospective, many scrum masters spend up to a full day each sprint carefully planning and crafting the “perfect” event. But even then, all their hard work may fail to produce the desired engagement and outcomes.
What’s worse, when your team ISN’T firing on all cylinders, staying motivated and engaged, and constantly improving their strategies and work together, it can spell DISASTER for your career.
I should know. I found out the hard way…
This mistake almost got me fired...
Over a decade ago, as a new scrum master, I made a horrible (but amazingly common) retrospective mistake that almost got me fired.
I was overworked. My company had me spread too thin, working on several teams at once.
And because of this, I barely had time to attend daily scrums, let alone prepare a unique retrospective each sprint.
So I did what so many well-intending people in my position have done…
I ran the same boring retrospective over and over and over again.
It went something like this:
“Alright team, what went well this sprint, and what would you like to change?
Write down some pluses and deltas on these Post Its.”
I did this sprint after sprint.
I got a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach that my team was laughing at me behind my back. While I’ll never know for sure if that was the case, I can say with all certainty that they hated my boring retrospectives.
They were disengaged. They came up with the same items every sprint. They looked at me with dead eyes that screamed, “Get me out of here!”
…and after each dull and uninspiring retrospective, they ignored the items they had said they’d work on.
(Can you relate? If so, it's not your fault. You don't have the tools and time you need...keep reading to discover a better way…)
Not only was my team getting nowhere, I was left exhausted, demotivated, and stressed. So I decided to ask my mentor for help…
My mentor’s advice made me even MORE stressed
I asked my mentor why my retrospectives were going so poorly.
His answer was so simple it hurt:
“Adam, you’re doing the same retrospective over and over again. Of course, they are bored. You need to come up with a new retrospective every single time you run one. Do that, and I promise you, your team will come up with brilliant ideas of how they can improve each sprint.”
“But… I… I don’t have time to put together a new retrospective every time”, I replied.
“Well, figure it out,” warned my mentor. “If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’re not going to end up with a high performing team. At this rate, you might not even have a job.”
Horrified by the prospect of letting my teams down, and by the thought of losing my job, I dove headfirst into retrospectives. I read everything I could on the subject and started crafting my own unique retrospectives every sprint.
Since I was so busy during the day, the only option I had was to stay up late into the night. I’d spend hours creating materials, inventing games, and gathering supplies for our retros.
I’m not going to lie… This took a ton of time. Time I didn’t really have.
But, it started paying off.
Slowly but surely, my retrospectives started to improve. Instead of looking half asleep, my teammates were so excited and engaged with each other we’d sometimes have others in the office ask us to “keep it down!” during our retros.
Encouraged by my team’s results, I spent the next many years refining my approach to retrospectives. I’d test them with different teams, and asked other Scrum Masters to test them too. My results were repeatable — even high performing teams were more engaged using my approach.
I loved the results I was finally getting with my retrospectives, but it was still far too much work.
So I began looking for shortcuts. By doing so, it forced me to look at what common factors helped me produce the most productive and engaging retrospectives.
I spent the next 11 months analyzing what I was doing right and that had the biggest impact. Finally, after a decade of trial-and-error, I identified the missing ingredient that, when added to any retrospective, makes your team practically forget they're in a meeting…and gets even the most bored and disengaged members firing on all cylinders.
In fact, this missing ingredient is so powerful it’s routinely used by Quentin Tarantino, JK Rowling, and Eminem to make hundreds of millions of dollars.
I’m going to reveal what this missing ingredient is, and how you can use it to improve engagement in your retrospectives without having to work late into the night or all weekend to prepare…
Chances are it’s something you never thought to do before when planning your retrospectives.
How this missing ingredient can inject more fun and engagement into your next retrospective
It all starts with planning your retros around this missing ingredient top Hollywood directors, best-selling authors, and music stars rely on to captivate their audiences. Let me explain how it works…
Picture the last time you stopped watching a movie part way through because you couldn't stand the boring plot:
You and your date start the movie…
[25 minutes later]
“Ugh. This is sooooo boring!”
[3 minutes later]
You pull out your phone to check Facebook (your date looks annoyed!)
[2 minutes later]
“It’ll get better. God. It’s gotta get better, right?”
[1 minute later]
“This movie is horrible!!!”
(Your date is giving you the stink eye!)
Suddenly — you grab the remote and turn the movie off.
THAT frustration — just before you grab the remote — is exactly what your team feels during a boring retrospective. Except they can't just reach for the remote... (They're stuck in the room with you!)
Remember when you saw a movie you couldn't wait to tell a friend about because it was SO good?
The difference between those two movies? The movie you loved had a story that was crafted so well you couldn't help but suspend disbelief.
In moments like that you lose track of time...
...and the space in between possible and impossible melts away.
Yet you’re fully mentally engaged…your brain is fired up…and your creative juices start flowing.
Quentin Tarantino, JK Rowling, and Eminem all know how to tell a story that takes their audience out of their own heads… and keeps them perched on the edge of their seats, immersed in the worlds they've built.
You, too, can use this same missing ingredient in your retrospectives to help your team get into the “zone” and accomplish things they previously thought impossible.
What’s more, you can easily do so even if you don’t have a creative bone in your body, and without having to stay up all night to prepare.
“Done-for-you” service gives you tested retrospectives that work
I knew I wasn’t the only scrum master dealing with the stress of putting on engaging and productive retrospectives. And now that I’d finally discovered the game-changing missing ingredient, I knew I wanted to share it with others to help them, too.
That’s why I created a “done-for-you” service that eliminates all the work while giving you tested retrospectives that are far more engaging and productive for your team.
It’s the culmination of my 10+ years of experience with retros, a series of 1-on-1 interviews with agilists about their real-life challenges, and a deep-dive survey with over 450 people who told me about their personal struggles with retrospectives…
It’s called Recess and here’s how it works…
Each month you’ll receive a physical box — delivered to your door — with everything you need inside to run an insanely engaging retrospective.
This isn't a collection of random activities thrown together the night before your meeting. It's a carefully crafted retrospective experience.
Imagine the relief you’ll feel knowing this cheery little box you’re holding has everything you need for your retrospective — down to the tape to hang the GIANT posters that are included on the wall.
No staying up late the night before planning your retro. No frantically drawing stuff on flipcharts just before your team shows up. No rushing around searching for Post-its. No need to spend 15 minutes agonizing over what to say to kick the retrospective off…
No need for any of that hassle or stress… Thanks to Recess, all the planning, details, and materials are DONE, checked off your list, and waiting for you in the box ready to go.
Simply open up your new Recess kit five minutes before your team arrives, follow the simple set-up instructions, and you’re good to go!
Each Recess kit is carefully designed to follow the 5-step framework outlined in THE go-to book on retrospectives: Agile Retrospectives by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen.
This framework is the gold-standard for structuring retros. Each Recess kit’s retrospective plan takes you through these 5 steps: 1) set the stage, 2) gather data, 3) generate insights, 4) decide what to do, 5) close the retrospective…
This framework makes retrospectives as productive as possible… And I’ve done all the work for you. But you also get the one missing ingredient I’ve found that makes each retro as engaging and fun as possible, too!
It’s the one thing that’s missing from every other retrospective I’ve seen (including the retros in Derby and Larsen’s fantastic book)...
(Derby & Larsen)
But something is missing...
It’s building your retrospective around a compelling story that allows your team to suspend disbelief.
I’ve made sure each Recess kit includes a word-for-word script that immerses your team in an engaging storyline, along with all the materials needed to make your Retrospective a rip-roaring success.
You’ll be amazed how easy it is to use your Recess kit with your team for your next retrospective…
“If your team is flailing through uninspired retrospectives, give these as a gift to your Scrummaster, coach or team leader. If you love facilitating people learning and improving while having fun, Adam's creation Recess will provide just the booster you need.”
Above: Adam Weisbart and Diana Larsen at the 2019 Retrospective Facilitator's Gathering.
Let the games begin!
When your retrospective starts, just open your playbook and start reading aloud. It's your script for performing like a facilitation superstar (with no practice).
Icons for things like "start timer" and "hand out materials" prompt you to do the perfect thing at the right time. You'll have everyone on the edge of their seats with your Leonardo DiCaprio-like mastery of this month's story.
In fact, the scripts are so clear, I’ve had teams with no prior retrospective experience simply open the book and read out loud. And their whole team left LOVING the event and the improvements they made.
I even include proven solutions that help you avoid common (and painful) issues like people looking at their phones through half your meeting…
Each kit uses beautifully designed materials to get your team thinking, talking, and collaborating together. These items feel more like gifts you get for the holidays than materials you’re handed in a meeting.
My team of illustrators spends 100 hours or more on each Recess kit, just on the art alone. What’s more, we print every colorful item on thick, high-quality paper and cardstock. We’re not messing around. No office printers and flimsy copy paper here.
Each Month of Recess Includes...
Recess comes with a step-by-step playbook for facilitating retrospectives like a pro. It tells you exactly what to say and when to say it. Just read the script out loud and IMMERSE your team in this month's compelling storyline.
ALL THE SUPPLIES
Each kit contains everything you need: activity sheets, posters for the wall, and everything else needed for that month’s game. Need tape for hanging the poster on the wall? We've got you covered! Just show up with a pen.
New to facilitating retrospectives? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. You’ll have access to video-based coaching for each month’s kit and a direct line to a real person if you have any questions.
IMPROVEMENT TRACKING TOOL
Recess is fun. Know what’s even more fun? Watching your team and organization improve. Recess comes with a set of tools for tracking your growth over time.
If your team surfaces an issue they need assistance with during or after Recess, we’re here for you. Just shoot us an email and a coach will reply. On this playground, there’s always a monitor ready to lend a hand.
Teams at top companies like Nike use Recess to improve their retrospectives… you can, too!
While the storyline and materials in each Recess kit are fun and much less “business-like” than what you may be used to, they serve a serious purpose…
Each item is painstakingly crafted to ensure it helps your team solve real-world challenges. They create an environment where your team is more likely to find solutions to problems they previously thought were “impossible”.
We’ve tested each retrospective with dozens of teams... Teams that had fun while they did serious work together.
At its core, Recess is about improving outcomes. Serious teams at organizations from Nike to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have all used Recess kits to boost meeting outcomes and facilitate organizational improvement.
Each time you run a retrospective using your Recess kit, you’ll walk away with two essential things that set you up for success:
Look inside a box of Recess!
Watch the movie with sound on, or you'll miss the storyline for month 3, Mission to Mars!
How you can benefit from the thousands of hours I've put into retrospectives
When I was introduced to agility over a decade ago, I was beyond excited!
Agile felt like a revelation… A way of working that was built around the idea of continuous improvement. I, like you, knew reflecting on the way our team worked together was essential to this. As agilists we all want to find ways of helping our teams get more out of our work together: more value, more quality, and more enjoyment.
But after a decade of working with dozens of teams as a coach, and training 1000's of people around the world, I know how busy things can get. From my own experience as a scrum master, I know just how overwhelming it can be.
Creator of Recess!
Finding time every two weeks to create a new retrospective is daunting, if not impossible. You’ve got to be a magician to pull these out of thin air again and again.
I want to free up some of your time by taking the work of creating a new retro each sprint off your plate so you can spend more time focusing on your team.
Recess has helped hundreds of people have better retrospectives without all the hassle. I think it can help you too.
In fact, I’m so confident you’ll love Recess, I’ll make you a promise…
If your team doesn’t love Recess, email us within 30 days of delivery of your first box for a FULL refund of the purchase price. Keep everything you received with our compliments.
You risk nothing by seeing what Recess can do to make your next Retrospective your most successful ever.
I know Recess will make a dramatic difference in your retrospectives. My team and I spend over $15,000 on each monthly Recess kit. We create each of the many activities in each kit, write a compelling storyline, test each retrospective with teams “in the wild,” print the materials on high-quality paper and cardstock, and so much more...
If you were to try to put together a similar retro yourself, you’d spend hours of time (you probably can’t spare) coming up with a storyline, writing a script, finding or making materials, putting together a plan, and likely staying up all night just to get it done…and still not feel confident going in that it would produce results.
But with a Recess kit, all the planning and work is done for you… everything you need is in your kit, ready to go. All for less than probably what an hour or two of your time is worth… just $79 a month!
I invite you to put Recess to the test yourself to see what it can do for your next retrospective. We’re shipping next month’s kits on the first day of the month. And since Recess is a physical product, we have a limited number of boxes available to send out each month.
That means if you'd like to join us, you need to order now. We’ll reserve your Recess kit, and you’ll be guaranteed to receive it every month. What’s more, you’ll get a new Recess kit sent to you on the 1st of every month. (We make it super easy if you ever have to put your membership on hold or stop a shipment for any reason).
We ship once monthly on the 1st, so any orders that come in after that date won’t be mailed until the following month. That’s why I urge you to take action now to get started.
Remember, your 100% satisfaction is guaranteed. Put your first month’s kit to the test on my dime, not yours. If for any reason you’re not thrilled, you can simply email us and get a full refund. No hassles. No returning materials to us.
I hope you enjoy the much more engaging and productive retrospectives I know Recess will bring you… just like it has for hundreds of agilists in top companies and government agencies around the globe.
I look forward to hearing about your results! Click the button below to reserve your Recess kit today.
See you at Recess,
Adam Weisbart, CST
Your Next 12 Retrospectives
What You'll Receive Each Month
100% Satisfaction Guaranteed
What People are Saying About Recess
“If your team is flailing through uninspired retrospectives..."
“Adam shared six playbooks for different retrospective themes with me. I enjoyed the playful analogies and themes in each. All so well crafted and very clever. Each playbook describes activities best suited for every part of your team's retrospective. Recess Kits include all the artifacts you need to give a touch of playful reality [to your retros]. After reading through them, I am eager to read the next six (and more)!
If your team is flailing through uninspired retrospectives, give these as a gift to your Scrummaster, coach or team leader. If you love facilitating people learning and improving while having fun, Recess will provide just the booster you need."
- Co-author of Agile Retrospectives: Making good teams great
“I love outsourcing retrospective creativity to Adam"
“I love being able to outsource retrospective creativity to Adam Weisbart and let him come up with a new idea for me every month. I then get a box from him with everything I need."
- Mountain Goat Software
“Our first experience with Recess was a huge hit”
“Retros are foundational to our organization’s incremental improvement, but often become repetitive. Our first experience with Recess injected new ideas & energy. It was a huge hit with the team, and we immediately purchased a 1-year subscription."
- Director of Software Engineering at Proxibid
“Recess has given me a magic wand"
“Utilizing Recess for a theatre production postmortem was phenomenal. It was great to have a structure that ensured equity while reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses of the process and the production.
Had we not had Recess to guide our process, we would have not discussed what affected the entire team the most.
I'm grateful to Recess for providing a structure and a fun approach to a postmortem, a meeting that most of us don't look forward to! And to end the postmortem by incorporating a performative way to focus on the assets each team member brings was a lovely way to close what can be a tense process. My work as a Program Director of an academic theatre program will be much improved by continuing to use Recess."
Michelle Hayford, Ph.D.
- Theatre, Dance, and Performance Technology Program Director, University of Dayton
“It helped my team implement improvements immediately"
“Unboxing Recess was like discovering an OASIS amidst a retrospective desert. Its contents enabled my team to visualize clear and actionable improvements that were implemented immediately, all while having fun."
- Scrum Master @ Nike
“Recess has given me a magic wand"
“I’ve always wanted a magic wand to wave at my clients to help them run regular and engaging retrospectives. Adam has given me one with his Recess subscription!"
- Author of Agile Game Development With Scrum
Frequently Asked Questions
How long should I schedule for Recess?
While the Scrum Guide says retrospectives are “at most a three-hour meeting for one-month Sprints”, it gives no direct guidance on exactly how long a sprint should be for shorter sprints.
We’ve found that Retrospectives that are too short don’t allow teams to have as many breakthroughs (since they feel rushed), and that long retrospectives can be hard to fit into your day.
After working with hundreds of people, we’ve found that an hour and a half is the ideal length for most retrospectives. While you may be done sooner in some cases, you’re safe blocking off 1.5 hours each iteration for Recess. And if 1.5 hours strikes you as “long”, give Recess a try. The time will fly by :)
Will this work if my team is distributed?
Since Recess relies on physical items and same-room collaboration, it works best when everyone is physically in the same room together. If most of your team is in the same location and just a couple of you are distributed, Recess works great over video conferencing. If your team is fully distributed, we only recommend using Recess during company retreats or other times you’re together in person.
What if I have more than 1 retro a month?
It’s true that we only ship one retrospective a month. If you have two retrospectives per month you can incorporate what you’ve learned using Recess into any retrospective you make yourself. Even the retros you make yourself will benefit from Recess.
Is this a subscription?
Yes, you’ll get a new kit delivered to your door each month automatically. Cancel any time.
What's your return policy?
During the first 30 days of receiving your initial kit, you can cancel your membership for a full refund. Subsequent kits cannot be returned, though you may cancel your membership at any time. (Special orders excluded).
Can I use a kit more than once?
Since each kit contains some expendable supplies (like custom Post-it notes, award cards, etc...), Recess is intended to be used just once. If you'd like to repeat a kit, just let us know and we'll give you a special re-order link.
Most of our printed materials are printed on 30% post-consumer recycled paper (and can be recycled themselves). They’re printed here in the US by our eco-friendly printing partner that has planted over 500,000 trees, and uses vegetable-based offset inks.
Buying a kit of Recess means you’ve personally helped plant a tree!
When do kits ship?
In most cases, kits ship on the 1st of each month. If the 1st is a holiday, weekend, or there's some other random event that stops us from shipping your kit, it should go out the next business day.
Do you offer bulk discounts?
Yes! Please get in touch with us at [email protected] or by calling 415-GO-AGILE (+1 415-462-4453) to discuss bulk pricing.
Do we have to be doing Scrum to use this?
Nope! We specifically built these kits to be agnostic. University drama departments have used Recess and they didn't know what the heck Scrum was.
How do I cancel my membership?
You can cancel any time without a hassle via your control panel, by emailing us, or by calling 415-GO-AGILE. You’re in complete control.
How many people is each kit for?
Each kit is built to support a Scrum-sized team of 3-11 people.
How long will it take to get my first Kit?
We ship kits on the 1st business day of each month via USPS. Shipments within the United States generally take 2-3 days (though it's not guaranteed). Shipments out of the US generally take 1 to 5 weeks, which is mostly dependent on the receiving country's customs processes.
Do you ship internationally?
We currently ship to Canada from here in the US. Let us know if you’re interested in receiving Recess outside of North America. We’ll notify you as soon as we start shipping to your country.
Please note: International orders (outside the US) may be subject to customs duties or taxes upon delivery.
International customers are responsible for paying all taxes, duties or fees charged by their governments. We cannot refund duties or fees charged, nor are we familiar with each country's procedures.
Creator of Recess!
About the Author
Years ago, before Adam Weisbart was a Certified Scrum Trainer, before he’d trained and coached thousands of people around the world to help their teams become even more awesome than they already were, he made some cookies. Not just any snack, but Retrospective Cookies — fortune cookies with delicious questions for team retrospectives baked inside.
He tweeted about them, and people asked if they could buy some. He said yes, and even though boxing cookies was not his thing, he sent hundreds of boxes all over the world to help people make their retros more delicious.
Thus began Adam’s love affair with unique, engaging, and effective retrospectives!
When you open a Recess kit, you’ll be benefiting from the agile wisdom that Adam has honed over the last decade, working with clients including Apple, Microsoft, Automobile Association of America (AAA), BitTorrent, Action Against Hunger, and many more.
100% Satisfaction Guarantee
Put your first month’s kit to the test on my dime, not yours. If for any reason you’re not thrilled, simply email us within 30 days of delivery of your first box for a FULL refund of the purchase price.
No hassles. No returning materials to us...
Keep everything you received with our compliments.
P.S. Still not sure if Recess is for you?
Don’t try to decide now… Order while you have this page open to reserve your box before the shipping cutoff date, then give Recess a try for yourself.
If your team doesn’t love Recess, email us within 30 days of delivery of your first box for a FULL refund of the purchase price. Keep everything you received with our compliments. You risk nothing by seeing what Recess can do to make your next Retrospective your most successful ever.