Favorite Retrospective Techniques

Below are a collection of retrospective techniques that I have found very useful over the years. There are many more that I have also used but these are the ones I lean on heavily. I think it is very important to vary the format of any retrospective if you are typically facilitating them with the same group of people over time. This keeps it fresh and new ideas flow when you change techniques.

If you want to know what format I typically use with these techniques, read My Go To Retrospective Format blog post.

With each of the techniques below I am expecting that these will be used to allow the group to generate ideas for improvement that will lead to an action plan owned by one or many of the group members.

Favorite Retrospective Techniques

Start, Stop, Continue (Keep)

Simple yet very effective. Label 3 separate columns for the group to add ideas, similar to the picture below. Ask the group what would you start doing, stop doing, or continue (or keep) doing to improve what is being retrospected (i.e. the team, a process).

Start Stop Continue Retrospective

Start Stop Continue Retrospective

Starfish

This is an similar to the Start, Stop, Continue retrospective with a couple of extra categories. Draw a starfish pattern on the white board or on your virtual white board with the labels for each category similar to the picture below. Here I ask the group what would you start doing, stop doing, keep doing, have more of, or less of that will help improve what is being retrospected (i.e. the team, a process).

Starfish Retrospective Technique - Start Doing, Stop Doing, Keep Doing, More of, Less of

Starfish Retrospective

Speedboat

Draw a picture of a speedboat or sailboat with a few anchors under the water, an island in the distance, and some rocks up ahead. See the picture below for an example. Then ask the group, imagine our team is a speedboat/sailboat and our destination is the island in the distance what is slowing us down (anchors), what could speed us up (tailwinds), what obstacles might get in our way (rocks). The island can represent the team in a higher performing state or maybe it is the process the group is trying to improve.

Speedboat Retrospective

Speedboat Retrospective

Timeline

The timeline retrospective requires a little more homework by the facilitator and team members. The facilitator will need to capture major events (both positive and negative) that occur during the time frame being retrospected. Typically I use this to span a time greater than a single Sprint/Iteration (two weeks or less). Most likely for a release (1 to 3 months). It is possible for the team to do this as well during the time period that will be retrospected. I have had a whiteboard with the timeline and some different colored stickies to indicate positive and negative events.

During the time frame when an event occurs, note it and place it on the whiteboard. If you are going to collect the team happiness through out then make sure each team member is surveyed for a happiness value at periodic times. I usually just make up coins with numbers 1 through 5 on them. A 1 indicates unhappy, a 5 indicates happy. Or you can print out the happiness coins below and use them. This can be collected anonymously as the team ends their daily stand up.

Happiness Vote Coins

For the retrospective, have the group meet near the whiteboard or take a picture of it and project it in the meeting room. If you follow a retrospective format similar to what I typically do, during the brainstorming section ask the team open ended questions. For example:

  • “What do you make of our timeline?”
  • “What can be done about the events that occurred?”
  • “How often are we experiencing these events?”
  • “What is the root cause of these events?”
Timeline Retrospective

Timeline Retrospective

These are my favorites, what has been your experience with any of these? Comment below. If you have one that you go to, I would love to here about it in the comments.

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