Retrospective: MAD – SAD – GLAD

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Format: MAD - SAD - GLAD

MAD – SAD – GLAD is a quick and easy format to use during your sprint retrospective. Is requires little preparation, it’s easy to understand and it allows the team to reflect on the positives and improvements from the last iteration. This is the type of format that you could even do without a whiteboard or a digital tool.

The Icebreaker

The icebreaker of this retrospective is aligned with the MAD – SAD – GLAD. Ask every team member to indicate their emotion about the last sprint using one of the three emoji’s next to the icebreaker section on the board. You can ask everybody to share a few words about their choice, but this is not mandatory.

The retrospective format

Next is the MAD – SAD – GLAD exercise. As the title already reveals, the stages of this format are the following:

  • MAD: What are you mad about from the last sprint? What drove you crazy, or did you really hate?
  • SAD: What made you sad in the last sprint? 
  • GLAD: What made you happy in the last sprint? What went good, what did you like?

There are two ways you can approach the exercise:

  1. Have everybody share their MAD, SAD and GLAD one by one. In this approach, everybody goes one by one and you discuss the necessary details, see if you can identify an improvement action. 
  2. Give everybody some time to write down their MAD, SAD and GLAD and discuss afterwards. If you take this approach, you want to ask everybody to write down at least 1 – 2 post-its. Afterwards, depending on the amount of post-its, you can do a dot voting to identify the most hot topics and start the discussion on one of 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 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?

To continu in the MAD, SAD, GLAD theme, I asked everybody to share the emoji that fits with their feeling on this retrospective.

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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