Meetings can often become a drag overtime. One of the advantages of using different formats is that they help you frame the questions in different ways. That brings out new information while keeping users engaged. The goal of this blog is to provide you a comprehensive list of different formats to run your agile retrospective meeting. It will enable you to keep switching things up, prevent boredom and meeting fatigue to set in among participants. What you will notice when you read the different retrospective formats is that they are all asking the same things in a slightly different way. And that slight variation keeps the team engaged without raising their anxiety about learning a whole new format. Let’s go over some useful formats!
Written by Norm Kerth who is considered the inventor of retrospectives it focuses on 4 aspects of the last sprint:
•What Went Well? : All the good things in the sprint
•What Didn’t Go Well?: Things that could have gone better than they did. An opportunity to do them differently next time.
•What Have I learned?: Experience in the last sprint that helped you grow and will be useful in the future
•What still puzzles me?: Is there anything that you are not quite sure off?
Start Stop Continue
Popular format if you want to get setup and start your retrospective quickly. It contains three columns:
•Start: Things that the team is not doing now but should do if they want the sprint to be successful
•Stop: Activities that are hampering the team’s progress and need to stop immediately. Otherwise they will have a negative impact on the performance of the team
•Continue: The good things that the team is doing which are helping in executing the project well. Need to continue doing them.
Learn More About Start Stop Continue Retrospective
What Went Well
One of the classic formats it looks at the previous sprint through three lenses. They are:
•What Went Well: Everything that worked towards making the sprint successful.
•What Didn’t Go Well: Things that could have been better and did not live up to the mark
•How Can we Improve: Ideas on how to fix what “didn’t go well” so that it doesn’t happen again in the future
Learn More About What Went Well
Mad Sad Glad
Don’t be fooled by the funny name. Even though this format doesn’t sound like something you’d use to run a meeting it is very effective. The focus is on finding the emotional state of the team and how they feel. And that’s what makes it different. It looks beyond transactional conversation and focuses on how action and behavior impact the mental state of the team. The three parts are:
•Mad: Is there anything that happened or didn’t happen in the last sprint that really frustrated you? Is it affecting your health and work and needs to be brought up here.
•Sad: What does your ideal sprint look like? Is there anything missing in the current sprint that’s making you sad? Are you happy with the culture of the team and everyone you work with?
•Glad: An opportunity to acknowledge all the good things that have happened in the sprint. A chance to also give kudos to people who have helped the team achieve its full potential.
Learn More About Mad Sad Glad Retrospective
4L adds an extra column to it’s feedback format and enables you to gather more data. You can use it to further strengthen your takeaways from the meeting. Its four parts are:
•Liked: What did everyone like in the sprint?
•Learned: Were there opportunities to learn something during the sprint? For example- you got to work on a new library, attended a workshop, learned how to collaborate better etc.
•Lacked: Is there anything that could have made the sprint better?
•Longed for: If you were given an opportunity to change something about the project to make it better then what would it be?
Learn More About 4Ls Retrospective
Good, Bad, Ideas, Actions
This retrospective has four parts:
•Good: The good thing that happened during the sprint that you are proud off
•Bad: All the bad stuff is listed here. Things that didn’t go so well.
•Ideas: The team brainstorms on how the bad can be converted to good. How can the bad things that have been identified be fixed?
•Actions: Converting ideas into concrete actions. These are the areas where the team will focus on to improve before the next sprint
It is one of the fun ways to have an agile sprint retrospective meeting. It uses metaphor to describe different parts of the retrospective:
•Sailboat represents the team
•Anchors are issues that are slowing the sailboat aka your team down
•Island is the sprint goal where your sailboat wants to reach
•Icebergs and pirates are potential blockers that can sink your sailboat/project
•Winds are actions that are making the ship go faster towards the island
•Sunshine is everything you are thankful for in the middle of the ocean.
Learn More About Sailboat Retrospective
A democratic way of running a sprint retrospective meeting. The team decides the agenda together and prioritizes things to be discussed by voting on agenda items. It enables everyone to have an equal voice. This prevents the meeting outcome from getting skewed to what only the dominant voice in the room has to say.
Learn More About Lean Coffee Retrospective
Three Little Pigs
Taking inspiration from the Famous children’s story this retrospective divides everything into the three houses:
•House of Straws: Things that pose a huge risk, can break down anytime and cause havoc for the team and customers
•House of Sticks: Processes or features that were put in as a workaround or bandaid. It does the job but eventually needs to be replaced with a permanent solution at some point in the near future.
•House of Bricks: An opportunity to give the team a pat on the back and appreciate all the good things. It could be feedback from a customer or something else.
Developed by Patrick Kua the Starfish retrospective focuses on actions performed in the last sprint. The takeaways from this agile retrospective are highly actionable. Like a starfish this retrospective also has four arms that form the foundation of the format.
•Keep Doing: Everything that’s going as planned and needs to continue as is
•Less of: Things that are necessary but too much of it can become a deterrent. Meetings are a good example of this 😄
•More of: Actions that have a positive impact on the sprint and the team can use more of them
•Stop Doing: Actions that are detrimental to the team culture and sprint goal and need to stop immediately
Learn More About Starfish Retrospective
Kalm which sounds like “Calm” is a way to acknowledge how things are and how to keep moving forward.
•Keep: What’s working and need to keep doing
•Add: Ideas on how to improve
•More: What’s working but we need more of it. Need to double down on it
•Less: Some things are useful but only in limited quantities. Like meetings 🤣 . This is the place to list them out.
Daki enables teams to find if their current processes and actions provide the value as compared to the effort. Based on their experience participants provide their recommendations to:
•Glad: An opportunity to acknowledge all the good things that have happened in the sprint. A chance to also give kudos to people who have helped and support the team to achieve its full potential.
•Add: New ideas to make the agile sprint more effective
•Keep: Actions that are having the desired impact. Just need to keep doing them
•Improve: Items that are not working. They are necessary but you have not been able to figure out how to make them work. This is the place to brainstorm ideas on how to improve them
Learn More About Daki Retrospective
Similar to a Sailboat, the Speedcar retrospective is a great visual tool to run your agile retrospective. Speedcar is a metaphor for your team. The other parts are:
•Engine: All things that help you achieve your sprint goal
•Parachute: Everything that slows the team down
Learn More About Speedcar Retrospective
Easy as Pie 🥧
This format will make you hungry. Better eat something before coming for this meeting 🤣
•Humble Pie: Not everything is rosy. Some things are not working as planned. It’s ok to admit them here and discuss with the team
•Easy As Pie: Things working well and the team could use more of
•Cutie Pie: Kudos to people who are doing great work for the team
•Pie in the Sky: Ideas that can make things better for the team
Hot Air Balloon
Have you ever sat on a hot air balloon? It’s so much fun! Imagine your team is sitting in the hot air balloon. Hot air makes a balloon go higher and the weight make it go down. If your goal is to go as high as possible then you need the hot air. All the discussion in this sprint is divided into two parts:
•Hot Air: All things that are working for the team and helping it achieve the sprint goal
•Weights: Obstacles that are bringing the team down and slowing the progress.
A retrospective that looks at the past experience and future considerations. It has four key components:
•Future Considerations: Areas to focus on in the future in order to have a successful agile sprint
•Lessons Learned: Takeaways from the last sprint
•Accomplishments: Things to be proud of from the last sprint
•Problem Areas: Places where the team faced challenges in the sprint and need to be looked into
As the name suggests it’s similar to the starfish retrospective, just a bit smaller. It only carries forward three categories:
•Keep Doing: Things that are working and need to continue in the next sprint
•Less/Stop: Everything that isn’t really working as planned and needs to either stop or reduce
•More of: Things that are having a positive impact on the sprint but could have an even bigger impact if more effort is put into them.
Rose Thorn Bud Retrospective
A simple exercise on mindfulness that can also be used to run a sprint retrospective. It has three parts:
•Rose: All the good things and positive aspects of the sprint
•Thorn: Issues that cropped up during the agile sprint and caused the team some heartburn
•Bud: Ideas that can help improve future sprints
Peaks and Valleys Retro
A great visual retrospective exercise to go over with your team. It helps you understand how the emotional state of each participant changed as the sprint progressed forward. For example, this retro will identify if someone started a sprint on a high but lost steam as the sprint progressed. The team then discusses what were the drivers of this emotional trajectory. It contains an X and Y axis:
•X axis: Timeline of the sprint
•Y axis: Happiness level of the participant
Each participant moves from left to right drawing a line representing how happy they are. Peaks are the high points of happiness and Valleys are low points of sadness.
Pleasure and Gain
Another fun visual way to run an agile retrospective session. You divide your canvas into four quadrants.
Participants put all their activities in the various quadrants. It’s a great exercise that helps you find pain-points that need to be fixed and activities that are difficult but worthwhile to do.
A unique retrospective which uses quantitative rating across different parameters to show how satisfied the team is with the last sprint. Participants rate their satisfaction level on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the most satisfied. You can choose the parameters that make the most sense for your team. Common parameters are: teamwork, motivation, code quality, flexibility, communication, speed, business value, happiness. You take the average across the team for each parameter and plot it on a spider web. It ends up looking like a radar that tracks air traffic.
This agile retrospective has four quadrants:
•Wishes: What would you change if you could make your retrospective perfect
•Risks: Things that have the potential to damage your agile sprint
•Appreciations: Kudos to people who helped move the needle and make progress towards the sprint goal
•Puzzles: Problems which the team hasn’t been able to solve and needs some brainstorming
Wish and Wonder
Inspired by the “I Like I Wish I Wonder” from Stanford Design School this format inspires creativity among participants.
•I Like: All the good things that happened in the sprint that you’d like to see more off
•I Wish: Areas of Improvement where the team can do better
•I Wonder: New ideas that can accelerate the growth of the team
•Shoutouts: Acknowledging the contribution of team members who have made a difference.
Phew, that was a lot of formats to go through. Hope you will be able to use some of them in your retrospective meetings. If there is a format that we missed out (and I’m sure there are lots) that you’d like to see then let us know!