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Mark Pearl


I have recently been reading “Agile Retrospectives – making good teams great by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen”. The book so far is a fairly easy read, and one I would recommend to anyone wanting to do retrospectives.

One of the activities to set the stage for a retrospective mentioned in the book is the ESVP Activity (Explorer, Shopper, Vacationer & Prisoner).The purpose of the activity is to help people focus on the work of the retrospective and to understand people’s attitudes to the retrospective. I made a few modifications to the activity to enhance it – here they are

The Basics

The book suggests that each participant reports anonymously his or her attitude toward the retrospective as an Explorer, Shopper, Vacationer or Prisoner. The retrospective leader then collects the results and creates a histogram to show the data and then guides a discussion about what the results mean for the group.

  • Explorer – Are eager to discover new ideas and insights. They want to learn everything they can about the iteration/release/project
  • Shoppers – Will look over all the available information, and will be happy to go home with one useful new idea
  • Vacationer – Aren’t interested in the work of the retrospective, but are happy to be away from the daily grind
  • Prisoner – Feel that they’ve been forced to attend and would rather be doing something else


I tweaked this activity a bit – for it to really be effective people need to feel comfortable and know that it is anonymous. A suggestion was that the attendees write down which type of person they felt they were – but with smaller groups it is easy to recognize handwriting, so in our case we made cards and they simply had to tick which one they felt they were. Also, to make sure it would be really hard to identify the people, I made sure that there were identical pens, so that nobody would recognize whether you were answering with a different colored pen.

The Outcome

In our retrospective I was surprised on the results – we had 5 explorers and 3 prisoners. I was expecting one or two shoppers, but it turns out we did not have any. I found the activity really beneficial to gauge how the members of the team felt in the retrospective.

Where I could have had better outcomes

I was not ready for the results, and one suggestion I would make is to prepare better to lead a discussion on the outcome of the results. In my case I tried to comment on the results as the leader of the retrospective – I should have instead facilitated a discussion from the group on the results, which would have led to better insights by the team.

Some of the points in the book also would have added value, examples included

  • asking the group how these categories are like our attitudes toward daily work
  • asking the group what they make of the data and leading a discussion about how the attitudes in the room will effect the retrospective
Posted on Tuesday, January 24, 2012 4:38 PM Agile | Back to top

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