Christmas Retrospective

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Christmas Retrospective

This Christmas Retrospective can be used at the end of the year to reflect on the past year. Or, alternatively, it can also be used as a regular retrospective during the Christmas period. 

The Icebreaker

The suggested icebreaker for this retrospective is having everybody share (a picture) about their favourite Christmas tradition. If a picture seems a bit difficult, you can also use regular post-its instead. An alternative could be to ask everybody to share (a picture of) their favourite Christmas food. This allows you to get to know your team members a bit better. Depending on your team, you can select the appropriate icebreaker. 

The goal of the icebreaker is to get everybody in the Christmas spirits and focused on the retrospective session. Try to make sure that nobody is distracted by other work.

Don’t spend too much time on the icebreaker and don’t go in detailed discussions just yet. It is not recommended to go into detailed discussions during this step.

The retrospective format

This Christmas retrospective consists of 4 stages:

  1. “Tree topper:” what was the highlight of the last sprint (or year)? Or, alternatively, what is the star on your horizon? What are you looking forward to? You could also use this stage as a “wish”: what do you wish for, for next sprint (or year)? Depending on the context of your retrospective, you can tweak this stage a bit.
  2. “Cool presents:” what are cool presents that you received last sprint (or year)? Things that went well, cool features that you are proud of, …
  3. “Unexpected presents:” what are unexpected presents that you received last sprint (or year)? Things that were less fun, or took longer than expected, …
  4. “Cat incoming:” Uh-oh, there’s a cat waiting to jump on your beautiful Xmas lights! What are bad things that could happen next sprint(s)? Which risks do you see?

After explaining the 4 stages to your team, give everybody a few minutes to write down their thoughts on a post-it. After this, you can do a quick dot voting session to determine the most important one(s) and start with a discussion on those.

While having the discussion on a topic, always focus on what’s within the control of the team. Don’t focus too much on external people or factors, but mainly on the things that are within the control of the team to identify improvement actions that the team is able to take. You want to have 1 – 2 action items at the end of the retrospective that you can implement in the next iteration(s). Remember: you will not always have big live changing action items in each retrospective. That’s also not the intention. A small action that brings a small improvements is already very good. Try to improve a little each sprint instead of trying to bring big changes at once.

About last retrospective...

A crucial part of the retrospective is to reflect on the outcome of the previous one! Teams often forget to do this, but it is very important as it gives the team the confirmation that the action items are actually important… And that we want to make sure we improve! There is a section on the top of the template where you can refer to the action items of the last retrospective. Go over them, see how you are doing in regards to them, and decide what to do next.

Rate your retro!

At the very end of the retrospective, I ask the team to quickly rate their retrospective with focus on: 

  1. Did we have a good discussion? Did we speak openly, and respect each others opinion?
  2. Do we have valuable action items? And, are we confident that we will do them in the next sprint?

We also use a feedback wall where team members can share their feedback on the retrospective. As the facilitator, you can encorporate this feedback into the next retrospective session.

Other things about the format

On the very top of the format, you can see 2 elements:

  • Action items / experiments: this is the place where you would write down the action items during the retrospective. This makes it easy to summarize them at the end of the session.
  • Idea for the next retrospective: I always like to foresee an area where people can give feedback or give input for the next retrospective. This can be feedback on the current format, ideas for a new format, tips, general feedback… Anything that can help us make the next retrospective even better! I would not make it required for people to give input in this, make them feel free to give input when they come up with something.

Download the template (for free)

You can download the Miro template for free below:

If you don’t have a premium version of Miro, you can also download the picture at the top of the screen and create the board in Google Drawings.


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