The MOST Important Event Your Team Participates In: The Retrospective

Retrospective meetings are an essential aspect of an Agile methodology, which helps teams identify areas of improvement and make necessary changes to enhance productivity. However, many employees dread retrospectives and often view them as tedious and unproductive meetings. But, who said that retrospectives can’t be engaging and fun? Certainly not our team!


Retrospectives are usually held at the end of each Sprint (or other consistent period of time if an Agile team, not a Scrum team), where the team gathers to discuss their performance, what went well, what didn’t go well, and what can be improved. The event provides an opportunity to reflect on the sprint’s accomplishments, identify areas of improvement, and plan for the next Sprint. However, to keep the team engaged and participating, the event should not be solely focused on the negatives, but also celebrate the positives. One way to make retrospectives fun is to start with a positive note by highlighting the team’s achievements during the sprint. It could be as simple as a shout-out to team members who went above and beyond, a celebration for meeting or exceeding the sprint’s goals, or recognizing any significant milestones.


I am curious about what the most engaged dialogue has been with your colleagues when reflecting on how your recent work went together – whether a Retrospective event for a Scrum team, a post mortem for a fundraising team after a special event, or an informal discussion over take out for lunch. What seemed to spark the meaningful conversation? The questions? The environment you were in? A visual prompt? There is no right or wrong answer as each team is unique. However, one thing our Agile in Nonprofits team has found is that mixing up the scenario in which the team reflects on their recent work together *is* a way to set the stage for ongoing meaningful conversations, versus conversations that grow stale or feel repetitive from discussion to discussion.


You may have heard me talk about how running and one good cup of coffee each day are what fuel my work. On the other hand, you rarely hear me talk about gardening or plants. However, our very own Marketing & Training Product Owner, Megan Martin, has given me guidance and support the past few years, so that instead of having one thriving kitchen plant, I now have a variety of 13 thriving plants around my house and office. (You should see her awesome wall of plants in her office!)


This shared focus on house plants became an important source of inspiration for our own team’s weekly Retrospective. Megan decided to turn her passion, and my growing skill, into a custom Retrospective board that our teams at DH Leonard Consulting could use as one of our rotating prompts our Scrum Masters choose from.




Another way to add some fun to the meeting is to incorporate different retrospective techniques. Traditional techniques like the “starfish,” “Glad, Sad, and Mad,” or “What Went Well, What Didn’t, and What Can Be Improved” can become monotonous and repetitive, causing the team to lose interest. Therefore, try new and creative techniques to make the meeting more engaging. For example, you can use games like “Retrospective Bingo,” “Retrospective Jeopardy,” or “Retrospective Pictionary” to make the meeting more interactive and fun.


We have seen participants in our training classes have fun with the Retrospective as well, creating their own prompts depending on the season or the mood of the team. One organization created a soup-themed Retrospective to use during some of their winter month discussions. The lesson is to keep the conversation fresh and mix things up for your team to help promote more dialogue and a different way of approaching the same basic concept of improving the way we work together as a team.


If you have a prompt or set of questions that have worked well for you in a team in the past, I’d love to hear. Let us know in the comments below.


Two other tips for facilitating great Retrospectives:

1 – Retrospectives should not be a one-way conversation, where only one person is doing all the talking. Encourage everyone to participate and express their opinions. One way to do this is by grouping everyone into smaller teams and assigning them a specific topic to discuss. This way, each team member has the opportunity to provide their input, and the discussion becomes more engaging and productive.


2 – Follow-up on the action items from the previous retrospective meeting. It inspires the team to see that their efforts and opinions are valuable and recognized. They will feel more engaged and motivated to participate in the next meeting, knowing that their input can positively impact the team’s performance.


Download our Retrospective toolkit here. Take advantage of our recorded webinar; Using a Retrospective to Continuously Improve Your Nonprofit.