Just because your team members feel shy about expressing (or receiving) appreciations in public, doesn’t mean you should stop doing them. Tami Flowers told me about her solution to making sure team members know what they’ve done that helps their co-workers and to encourage them to keep doing those things. She called it “Card Pass with Appreciations.”

Here’s how it goes:

Arrange chairs so that team members sit in a circle of chairs or around a table. Make sure that every person has a pen. Pass out large index cards, one per team member, and ask each person to write his or her name at the top.

Then the fun begins. Instruct team members to pass their cards to the person to their right (or left, just keep it consistent). Each team member reads the name on the new card and writes down one (and only one) thing that person did that helped the writer or the project. Point out that the actions don't have to be world-changing, even a small action that made things better will do. Offer a couple of your own real-life examples, "When I accidentally kicked the plug out of the fax machine and couldn't figure out why it wouldn't work, Lisa found the problem, then crawled under the table to plug it back in. She told me about a time when something like that happened to her. So I didn't feel quite so stupid," or "Frank re-filled my water bottle when I was busy" or "Raj overheard our foo problem and came to help."

Give 1-2 minutes per pass and use a timer to maintain a lively pace. Keep passing the cards around until the cards return to their original owners.

Use this activity to transition from Setting the Stage to Gathering Data. It starts the data gathering process. Alternatively, use it at the end as part of Closing the Retrospective.