What is ESVP? The explorer, shopper, vacationer, prisoner method explained

It’s no secret that at EasyRetro, we live and breathe retrospectives, but even we get a little tired of them from time to time.

The human attention span is simply not built to perform the same tasks over and over again. So, as your team performs more and more retrospectives, apathy can set in. Factor in outside factors in the team’s personal lives, and before you know it, you’re just performing retrospectives with no real passion or care. It’s almost like the team are prisoners, just waiting for their time to be served so they can move on.

That’s why in today’s post, we’re going to talk about the ESVP method and how it can identify apathy within your team before it becomes a problem.

ESVP stands for Explorer, Shopper, Vacationer, and Prisoner. It’s a tool you can use to identify lower engagement and discover why team members may be apathetic to retrospectives (or any other regular meeting).

The ESVP method helps you understand an individual’s mood or even the team’s mood overall by categorizing them as an Explorer, Shopper, Vacationer, or Prisoner. Each category corresponds to a sliding scale of engagement. If a team member falls into the explorer category, they are fully engaged, keen to participate, and learn. A team member who falls into the prisoner feels forced to participate and simply goes through the motions until the meeting ends.

Using the ESVP method will help measure the team’s motivations and build a plan to improve processes and boost engagement. It’s not a tool exclusive to retrospectives, either. You can apply the ESVP method to any meeting or even a whole project. It’s purely a tool to help management understand when they need to make adjustments.

The ESVP categories

The ESVP categories seem strange at first, so let’s just clarify what each category means.


Ideally, we’d love it if every team member was an explorer! Team members categorized as explorers are most likely to be fully engaged in the meeting. They’re keen to hear new ideas or insights that can help them improve. They tend to be excited about the future of the current project and what comes next.


Shoppers are invested in the process, but they tend to be invested purely for their own development rather than the project or the team as a whole. Shoppers will be looking to hear new insights that offer value to them directly and are not interested in ideas that only benefit the team or project.


Everyone loves a vacation, but you can’t vacation while you’re still at work! Unfortunately, team members can sometimes use meetings as a mini-break from their work. They’re only interested in what is happening in a meeting because they’re glad to have a distraction from their other work.


Prisoners are simply attending meetings because they are obligated to be there. They’re not interested in the process. They’re not interested in participating. They’re not interested in the results. They’re just there, waiting for the meeting to end.

How do you implement ESVP in your retrospectives?

The quality of your meetings depends on your participants’ investment in the process. Thankfully, integrating ESVP into your retrospectives is an easy task. So if you’re noticing a drop in engagement in your retrospective meetings, here’s how the ESVP method works.

Step one: Set the stage

Rather than diving headfirst into the practice, explain to your team what information you want to collect from them. Let everyone know that this technique isn’t about judging anyone. Nobody will get in trouble. It’s simply a way for the scrum master to understand the team’s mood and motivations.

Step two: Explain the categories

Sometimes, if a team member falls into the vacationer or prisoner categories, they might worry about negative comments getting thrown their way. But that doesn’t have to happen.

By explaining what each category means, you can reassure the team that it’s okay if their mood matches one of the categories that lean towards apathy. The ESVP method isn’t about shaming those who feel disinterested. It’s about creating an opportunity to improve the process and promote engagement.

Step three: Collect feedback

There are a few ways to collect feedback. You can use an online tool, dot voting, or even a ballot-style process. First, the scrum master writes the categories on paper and passes it around the room. Then, team members tick the category they most relate to at that moment.

Anonymously collecting answers can help team members honestly identify their motivation level.

Step four: Analyse the results

Once the team has given their answers, you can look at the results to see how your team feels overall. If the average response is vacationer or prisoner, it’s a sure sign that you need to adjust how you run your sprints.

However, if the results are generally explorer or shopper with a couple of outliers, something outside of work may be affecting those outlying team members.

Step five: Act on the results

There’s no point using the ESVP method if you’re not going to do anything with the information you gather.

If your whole team is feeling apathetic to retrospectives, consider changing up the framework a little. After all, EasyRetro offers over 100 different templates to choose from, so it’s not like you need to look too far for a more exciting way to run your retrospective!

However, if you only have a few outliers, consider one-to-one conversations with your team members to try and establish how they’re feeling. As we mentioned earlier, issues outside of work can affect engagement, which requires a tailored response.

Pros and Cons:

There are, of course, pros and cons to the ESVP method. Here are a few to keep in mind.


  • Help scrum masters understand the general mood of their team.
  • Help scrum masters to improve how they run meetings and retrospectives in a way that boosts engagement.
  • Help team members realize their level of engagement, hopefully leading to meaningful discussions and self-improvement.


  • Team members can be wary of being truthful, fearing repercussions or judgment.
  • Team members may offer incorrect responses.
  • Team members may see giving a prisoner or vacationer response as an excuse to be let out of a meeting early.

Each item in this cons list is precisely why we recommend keeping the process anonymous.

How to boost engagement in your retrospectives

It’s easy to say you’ll keep your meetings engaging and fun for everyone. But making that happen is another thing altogether! At EasyRetro, we love to put the fun back into fundamental business practices. We pride ourselves on helping scrum masters keep their teams engaged and motivated.

We have everything you need to turn your prisoners into explorers, from exciting retrospective templates to the EasyRetro blog, which is packed full of tricks and tips to get the best out of your teams.

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