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10 simple retrospective ideas for your next sprint

Last updated

1 June 2023


Claire Bonneau

Reviewed by

Sophia Emifoniye

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Calling all post-sprint team leads—have you organized an effective and simple retrospective to get the most out of your team’s recent hard work?

If not, you’re leaving valuable information and resources on the table!

Productivity sprints are an incredibly common practice for teams of any size looking to tackle a specific project within a narrow timeline. Great for getting work done and keeping your team members aligned to one common goal, sprints can also lead to increased stress and burnout if they’re not properly organized and debriefed as a group.

But, after finishing a dedicated work sprint, the likelihood that your team members will be excited to come together to discuss their work and experience is quite low. And that’s ok, as long as you come up with a plan! 

Follow this guide to some of our most innovative (and, dare we say, fun) ideas worth adding to your next post-sprint simple retrospective.

What is a simple retrospective?

A simple retrospective is a meeting held after a period of work (often after a sprint for a product or service launch) to debrief about the working process leading up to completion. The goal of a retrospective is to explore what went well and what can be improved on, offering your team an opportunity to create operational guidelines and improve upon your most recent working sprint in the future.

But, when done correctly, a retrospective meeting should give your team more than just a list of things you liked and things you need to improve upon. 

When organized correctly (and through the use of fun and simple retrospective ideas), your team can:

  • Explore existing working dynamics

  • Improve team member communication

  • Develop best practice guidelines

  • Discuss upcoming projects

  • Build a stronger sense of teamwork

  • Properly celebrate and appreciate your colleagues

Four steps to keeping your retrospectives on track

As you begin to plan your upcoming post-sprint retrospective, it can be hard to know how to structure your meeting to get the most out of your team. Whenever possible, you’ll want to keep your plan simple while integrating ideas that encourage answers and insights into these four primary categories:

1. Positive feedback

During your retrospective, collecting information about what went well during your recent spring is essential for future project planning. This is an essential category to cover during your retrospective, as it also gives your team a chance to talk about their preferences and positive experiences, which helps to boost morale.

2. Constructive feedback

On the flip side, it’s also important to discuss areas of improvement that your team can adjust as you move forward to new projects. As a time for your team to share their experiences and vent about possible pain points during the process, you should consider these insights to improve your workflow.

3. Future ideas

While a retrospective is designed to look back at your previous work to decompress and debrief, the intended goal of the exercise is to improve your efforts and plan for future initiatives. 

The best way to create even better products or services moving forward is to hone in on a workflow that benefits all members of your team. Throughout any post-sprint retrospective, taking the time to brainstorm future workflows (and ideally getting ideas from each team member) is a great way to get a jumpstart on your next project before you even begin!

4. Actionable steps

Finally, your team will leave your retrospective feeling productive and heard if they know that you’ll turn their contributions into actionable steps for your next project. 

At the end of your retrospective, we encourage the team lead to create a concise list of the events that occurred—including key points of feedback, possible ideas for the future, and any assigned work for team members to explore as you begin the next project.

As the perfect way to wrap up your meeting and keep everyone in the loop, this is a must-do for effective team leadership.

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10 simple retrospective ideas for your team to try

Now that we have explored the value that retrospective meetings can provide to your team ad business, here are a few of our top simple retrospective ideas to get the most out of your next post-sprint meeting:

Drop, add, keep, improve (DAKI)

DAKI retrospectives are a fun and collaborative way to gain helpful insights into the working experiences of your teammates. Based on four key elements, your team is encouraged to think about what worked (and what didn’t) during your recent sprint. 

Use this meeting to brainstorm as many ideas in each category as possible and then prioritize important changes later on.

  • Drop: Items that fall into this category are not best serving your team and should be removed for future working processes. 

  • Add: This section refers to new work processes, software, or resources your team is interested in trying or experimenting with.

  • Keep: Anything that falls into this category has been proven to be advantageous to the success of your projects and increases productivity. Workflow practices, communication styles, and software platforms that your team enjoys should be added here.

  • Improve: What things worked well but require improvement to be their best during your last working sprint? Highlight these issues to address as you plan your next sprint moving forward.

Mountain climber

Sometimes, a sprint can genuinely feel like climbing a mountain—so why not use this imagery as part of your next retrospective?

The mountain climber retrospective template encourages your team to imagine the completed sprint as a hike up a mountain. What resources and barriers did your team come across as you ascended?

  • Ropes: These are the workflow practices or resources that helped your team get the job done. They were your safety net as you moved through the sprint.

  • Weather: The mood and morale of your team are similar to the weather on a hike. Did you have a beautiful blue sky day, or was it rainy and cloudy? 

  • Boulders: All adventures into nature are not without sudden, unexpected obstacles. What were those for your team, and how did you handle them?

  • Emergency kit: What resources do you want to take with you next time you attempt to climb the mountain (or, in this case, plan your next sprint!)

Sailboat method

Another fun and interactive retrospective idea implores your team to imagine themselves as a crew on a boat looking to find the shore. A sailboat retrospective meeting is typically broken into five primary components:

  • The sailboat: The team (also known as the crew)

  • The distant island: The end goal of the sprint that you were working towards

  • The sails: Helpful attributes and systems of the team that help propel you toward the shoreline, enabling you to reach your goal

  • Ship anchors: Aspects of your workflow that slowed your team’s progress down

  • Rocks or rough seas: Potential pitfalls or problems that require additional planning to navigate successfully

Use this template to host a fun and interactive retrospective to help your team feel more like a cohesive unit and crew afterward!

Energy levels

An energy level retrospective takes the opportunity to deep dive into how your team members feel about different aspects of their recent sprint. This is a great meeting style to learn to address team morale, explore current motivation levels, and catch systems that may lead to burnout over time.

An energy level retrospective is based on three simple questions:

  • What tasks give you energy?

  • What tasks took your energy away?

  • What is your current energy level as we move into a new project or sprint?

Start, stop, continue

Finding ways to ensure that all voices within your team are heard and appreciated isn’t always an easy task. By using the start, stop, continue retrospective approach, your team can gain valuable insights from each team member about different aspects of the previous sprint:

  • Start: Items that your team wants to address but hasn’t started yet. These are often solutions to less-than-ideal workflows your team is currently using.

  • Stop: Anything that causes negativity or annoyance during your last sprint goes here. Ideally, you should remove many of these items from your workflow before your next sprint.

  • Continue: This is a list of your team’s highlights, including work they’re proud of, systems that worked, and shows of appreciation. Continuing to do these things will enhance team morale and productivity.

4 L's retrospective

Collect simple and comprehensive feedback from your team about your working process by using the 4 L’s retrospective approach:

  • Liked: Explore things your team enjoyed throughout the previous sprint. Be as general as possible to collect insights about all aspects of the work.

  • Lacked: Was your previous sprint missing support or resources? Identify things that could be improved or added to your next attempt in this section.

  • Learned: After any dedicated working session, there are always key takeaways. Encourage our team to share their feedback and learn lessons to improve your system.

  • Longed-for: Look into the future and allow your team to speak about things they wish for moving forward. You can use these grandiose ideas as foundational concepts that your team makes decisions based on.

Three little pigs

Based on the childhood bedtime story, the three little pigs retrospective approach is a fun and simple way to gain a better understanding of your previous sprint’s structural integrity:

  • House of straws: Items in that category are flimsy and can easily fall apart. They should be repaired or replaced by stronger systems moving forward.

  • House of sticks: Items in this category are working but could be improved with additional resources or support.

  • House of bricks: Items in this category are strong and stable. Keep using these systems moving forward.

Speed car

A speed car retrospective invites your team to imagine their efforts as a race car cruising down a track:

  • Engine: What made your team move faster and more efficiently? Any resources that propelled your team forward toward your goal should be identified and added to this category.

  • Parachute: What made your team slow down? Roadblocks, internal conflicts, and delays are all examples of items to add to this category for further discussion.

Rose, thorn, bud method

As an effective and simple retrospective approach, using the rose, thorn, bud template method can help organize the flow of your next post-sprint meeting:

  • Rose: A rose symbolizes beauty, success, and celebration. Use this template to celebrate the contributions of your teammates and give them their flowers!

  • Thorn: Looking back, what aspects of the project were troublesome, annoying, or stressful? You can improve on these things during your next team project.

  • Bud: Finally, every new project starts as a budding idea. Encourage your team to share ideas, feelings, and worries about future work to build a better sense of community.

The Marie Kondo method

Finally, why not tap into the joy of spring cleaning by using the Marie Kondo retrospective method? Based on the well-loved organizational consultant, this meeting template is based on three primary components:

  • Brings you joy: Using Marie Kondo’s mantra, explore what went well during your previous sprint. Dig deep into the feelings and systems that worked, and share your wins to boost morale.

  • Throw out: What didn’t go to plan or caused issues throughout the project? Identify potential issues and do your best to rid your future projects of the same roadblocks.

  • Recycle: There’s always room for improvement or reinvention. List concepts or systems that can be recycled and improved to better serve your team moving forward.

Improve your next sprint with customer insights

No matter the size of your team, taking the time to debrief after a busy work sprint is essential for long-term success and productivity. We hope that these fun and innovative retrospective ideas have piqued your curiosity and creativity, allowing your team to collaborate better on your next big project.

Looking to collect valuable insights to direct your next work sprint to create features and products your customers will love? Integrate Dovetail into your current workflow to turn your customer data into actionable insights today.

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