Retrospective: New year’s resolutions

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The New Year's resolutions retrospective

This retrospecitve format is designed for the last retrospective of the year with your team. This is a good time to look back on the previous year (retrospective) while also looking forward (futurespective) at what’s to come in the new year.

The Icebreaker

The suggested icebreaker for this format is a fun activity to do with your team: have everybody share a meme that describes a colleague from the team (and explain why you chose that meme). Important to mention is that this icebreaker might not be the best one if you’re working with a new team. Experience shows that this kind of activities is best to do with a team that has already been working together for a bit of time, and already know each other. For a new team, I would suggest to find an easier activity.

The goal is to get everybody engaged and focused on the retrospective, so they are not being distracted by other work. 

The retrospective format

The New Year’s Resolutions retrospective consists of 4 stages:

  1. “What were the highlights of the past  year?:” what did you experience as a hightlight (personal or for the team) in the last year? What was really great and memorable?
  2. “What were the most difficult moments?:” what were the most difficult moments during the past year? What was challenging, or gave us a hard time?
  3. “What are your New Year’s Resolutions?:” what are your good intentions for next year? What do you wish for the team? Or, what would you like (us) to start doing?
  4. “The concerns:” what concerns do you have looking at what’s to come next year? Which risks do you see?

For the first stage, you mainly want to focus on celebrating and acknowledging the successes of the last year. In the second stage, try to focus on what you learned from the difficult moments, and how you can prevent them in the future (or how you are already preventing them). 

The third stage is focused on sharing initiatives, and proactively deciding on things that the team can do in the next year to improve. The last stage is all about putting concerns on the table and trying to prevent them from happening, now we still can. 

Also good to mention is that this template was designed for a Scrum team working with AI (artificial intelligence), hence the “AI World domination” title in the 4th stage. You might want to tailer the titles of each stage to something that fits your team.

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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