Retrospective: Better, To Improve, Just Do It, Grateful

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The icebreaker

The “Better, To Improve, Just Do It and Grateful” retrospective starts with a creative icebreaker: Post a picture or meme that describes your perspective on the last iteration. This is a general icebreaker that you can ofcourse also use in other retrospective formats as well. It’s a fun icebreaker that can really set the stage and make is easy for people to share their feeling and emotions on the last iteration without immediataly having to speak up about it. You would first ask everybody to post a picture or meme, and most likely some people will give comments about certain pictures, which can already get the team to start talking about it. When everybody found a picture or meme, you can ask people to share a few words on it. It’s a lightweight, easy and fun icebreaker that sets the stage for the retrospective!

The retrospective format

The actual retrospective format contains the following stages:

  • Better“: What is going better compared to a few sprint ago? Or, what is going very well at the moment that we should keep doing in the next sprints? This step puts focus on the positive elements from the previous sprints. Since you phrase this step as “what is going better“, it would be great if people give input that is related from actions of the previous retrospective, since this would mean that the team is really acting upon them.
  • Improve“: What can be improved or is not yet going as it should be? What can we grow in as a team? In this step you focus on general topics for improvement. Use your observations as well. If team members come up with bigger topics, try to slice them into smaller parts that you can implement in the next one or two sprints. 
  • Just do it“: What should we try? What could be a valuable experiment? In this step, you try to collect ideas from the team. These can be experiments on the overall process and interactions, or also technical experiments or spikes.
  • Grateful“: Last but not least, take a moment to share something that you are grateful of. This can be an achievements from the last iterations (as an individual or as a team), something you appreciate from a team member, something you appreciate from the team… It’s not bad to highlight your appreciations from time to time.

How I approach this format is the following:

  1. After the icebreaker, quickly talk the team through the different steps to make sure everybody understands them
  2. Give the team 5 – 10 minutes to come up with items individually – no conversations or discussions (yet!).
  3. When everybody is finished, quickly read through the post-its (out loud, or everybody individually) to make sure everybody understands what every post-it means.
  4. Dot voting! Give the team 3 – 5 minutes to put 3 (or less, or more) votes on post-its that they want to discuss further.
  5. Go in depth: zoom into the post-it with the most votes. Ask for clarification, opinions, and have the discussion with the team.
  6. As you are having the discussion: try to conclude it to an actionable outcome. This can be an action that covers the entire topic, or it can also be a first step. Remember: a small but concrete action is always better that a big ambiguous one. 
  7. If you have time left: repeat! 
  8. 5 – 1O minutes before the end of the retrospective: summarize the action items to make sure everybody is aligned on them. If possible, it helps if the team assigns one or more persons to an action item. This helps because it is clear who will do what, and increasing the chance that the action will really be taken. 

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 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?

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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