5 sprint retrospective formats with examples

 5 sprint retrospective formats with examples

Sprint retrospectives are a valuable practice for agile teams, allowing your team to reflect, communicate, and improve. There are numerous ways to run a sprint retrospective, and many teams will mix up their retrospective formats to keep things fresh.

In this article we run through 5 sprint retrospective formats that your agile team can use in your next sprint retro:

1. What Went Well – Could Be Improved – Action Items

A personal favorite format of the myko team, this sprint retrospective format uses descriptive topic names which make it easier for your team to brainstorm feedback. This format is split into three topics:

  • What went well?
  • What could be improved?
  • Action items

Action Items can be based on the most popular topics suggested in the “What went well?” and “What could be improved?” – with a vote being an easy way to figure out which topics your team values the most and should be prioritised for the next sprint.

Here’s an example of this sprint retrospective format in action:

2. Start – Stop – Continue

One of the most popular sprint retrospective formats due to it’s simplicity. In Start – Stop – Continue, as the name suggests, your team’s sprint retrospective is split into three topics:

  • Start: what are some things your team aren’t currently doing, and should start doing in the next sprint as they would be beneficial?
  • Stop: what negative/wasteful things has your team been doing in the current sprint that they should stop doing?
  • Continue: what beneficial/positive things has the team been doing in the current spring that they should continue doing?

In essence, this format identifies gaps (start doing), negative actions (stop doing), and positive actions (continue doing).

3. Mad – Sad – Glad

This retrospective format appeals to your team’s emotions, asking them to thing of things in the sprint that conjured up particular positive or negative emotions:

  • Mad: what are some things that frustrated the team, this could be things that blocked them or caused friction between team members or other parts of the organization
  • Sad: what are some things that made your team sad, this could be things that disappointed them or things that they wish to improve
  • Glad: what are some positive things that the team were happy to see in the last sprint

This format can be very effective for emotionally aware teams, as it allows them to reminisce on things that they felt rather than specific events that transpired.

4. The Four L’s

This retrospective format was invented by Mary Gorman and Ellen Gottesdiener of EBG Consulting and described in their blog post The 4L’s: A Retrospective Technique. This format consists of your team splitting topics into:

  • Liked: positive things that happened in the sprint
  • Learned: things that your team members learned in the last sprint, which will help share knowledge amongst all team members
  • Lacked: things that could have been done better, or that were not done at all that should have been done
  • Longed For: things that the team want for the next or future sprints that were not available in the last sprint

This format helps teams to share knowledge (in the Learned part of the retro) and also look forward (Longed for), allowing you to identify gaps that need to be fixed in the short & long term.

5. Wow – Wondering – Worried

Much like the Mad – Sad – Glad format, this format helps your team frame topics from an emotional perspective:

  • Wow: what are some things that your team think went well and are worthy of praise
  • Wondering: what are some things that your team are unclear about
  • Worried: what are some frustrations or disappointments that your team can identify from the last sprint

Closing Thoughts

We hope this post has given you some ideas on how to run your next sprint retrospective and mix things up. Sprint retro’s shouldn’t become a chore or tax on your team, and mixing up the format can be one way to keep things fresh!

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