Recipe for Simple Agile Retrospectives

Alon Salant ·

After my talk at the Commonwealth Club last week our good friend Darren from Stimulant followed up with me to get a summary of the simple agile retrospective technique I described.

I thought I’d just send him to Google but a search for agile retrospective returned descriptions that seemed too heavy weight for the small, skilled, agile-literate teams we employ at Carbon Five.

There is certainly a lot of valuable information and insight out there I and definitely suggest doing some reading to understand the fundamentals and options for running retrospectives. However, since we want to do retrospectives often, we need a practice that doesn’t take much time or effort.

Here’s a recipe we are using these days. You can do this in 30 minutes. I actually did this with our architect for a home renovation project I am working on. Great things came out of it. I think it might have blown their minds.


Get alll team members in a room with a few stickies each.

You’re here to talk about an iteration, project, or other unit… with the goal of improving the next time around.

Thoughts: 5-10 min

Smiley face on stickies with good things from the last iteration.
Frowny face with concerns, risks, fears,…
You don’t have to be exhaustive, use the time you allocate.

Cluster: 5-10 min

Create two teams.
Give the smiles to one and the frowns to the other.
Group the stickies into related clusters.

Discuss: 20 min

Identify the primary smiley clusters.
Confirm that you will continue to see these benefits, can you increase them?

Identify the primary frowny clusters and list the themes on a whiteboard.
Vote to discuss – each team member has 4 votes – put dots next to
the issues you want to discuss.
Discuss the top 3 issues – identify SMART ( steps to address them.

Rinse, wash, repeat. Don’t feel you have to talk about everything. You are trying to focus on top issues. Once you address those, the next most important issues will surface for discussion.

We do this every other week with our internal team and monthly including our clients.

If you have other recipes for simple reflection, I’d love to hear them.