There is no greater threat to an idea than it alienating the very people it purports to help. Technicians can be deeply reflective, serious people, so forcing them to take part in trivial team building exercises can do more harm than good.
Being an occasional extrovert, I had a favourite game I used at the start of retrospectives. “If you were an animal in the jungle of your organisation, which animal would you be and why?” I think I learnt it from the fabulous Mike Lowery and have used it extensively ever since; until recently when I was given cause to rethink my approach.
The game’s purpose was three fold:
But after one rather excellent retrospective one of the senior programmers came up to me and said, “Please don’t ask me to be an animal again.” I looked at him open mouthed.
“It has no dignity.”
The conversation ended right there. Not another word was exchanged.
But it got me thinking. I realised that I had to enhance my facilitation skills to include everybody, not just those willing to risk a gentle ribbing by choosing a peculiar animal.
I now use a variety of different techniques to open retrospectives, and yes, I still sometimes use the “Animal Game,” when the situation warrants it. But I have found a wealth of information and great ideas in the book, Training from the back of the room, by Sharon L. Bowan. Sometimes collaboration requires deep thinkers to open up, and I don’t think this can be avoided completely).
Plenty of technicians are introverted, thoughtful and serious. When you run your team-building games, make certain you have the mandate to do so, and be sure that you are helping people to come forward, not filling them with dread.