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.
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.
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.
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
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!