Our guide to running effective retrospectives.

For Scrum Masters, team members, product owners, and everyone else developing amazing things.


What Went Well? What Didn't Go Well?


What Went Well? What Didn't Go Well? is a basic retrospective technique that focuses on your team's strengths and weaknesses.

Use it when you want to...
  • Focus the team on creating a list of concrete actions it can take to improve.
  • Take a logical view of what's working and what's not.
How it works

Step One: Before the retrospective starts the facilitator should hang two posters on the wall: one for "What Went Well?" and one for "What Didn't Go Well?".

setupWhat Went Well / What Didn't Go Well setup in Retrium

Step Two: To start the retrospective the facilitator should explain how the technique works. He or she should then tell the team the timebox for the retrospective (30-60 minutes, depending on the size of the team).

Step Three: Ideation. The facilitator should hand out sticky notes to the participants and tell them the timebox for this phase (10-15 minutes should be enough). Participants should keep their sticky notes private so that participants aren't biased by each other's ideas. When the timebox expires, the participants should place their sticky notes on the appropriate poster boards on the wall.

thinkPrivate ideation in Retrium

Step Four: Grouping. Since many sticky notes will likely contain related (or even identical) ideas, participants should group sticky notes into logical themes. Participants can use markers to draw circles around related sticky notes. The facilitator should announce the timebox (10-15 minutes) and encourage the participants to stand up and move from poster to poster to make this part of the retrospective interactive and fun.

thinkPrivate ideation in Retrium

Step Five: Dot Voting (optional). If there are a lot of sticky notes and/or groups to discuss, it can be challenging to structure the discussion in a meaningful way. If this is the case, the facilitator can opt to use dot voting to prioritize the discussion based on the collective desires of the group. The facilitator should announce the timebox (5-10 minutes) and, if the team has never used dot voting before, explain how it works:

  1. Tell each participant that they have a certain number of votes that they can use to indicate their preference for a sticky note or group. Make sure participants understand that they can distribute their votes as they wish. For example, one participant could place all their votes on a single sticky note to indicate how important it is to him or her to discuss that idea. On the other hand, another participant could distribute their votes evenly across many sticky notes.
  2. Have the participants walk up to the poster boards and vote on sticky notes or groups (they can use a marker to place a dot above the sticky they want to vote for).
  3. After voting is complete, the facilitator should sort the sticky notes based on the number of votes each received. This sorted list represents the collective prioritization of the sticky notes.

voteDot voting in Retrium

Step Six: Discussion. The facilitator should announce the timebox for this phase (20-40 minutes should be enough). If dot voting was used, then the team should discuss the sticky notes in prioritized order. If dot voting was not used, the facilitator can choose the order of discussion. The facilitator can optionally choose to timebox the discussion of each individual sticky note as well (to 5 or 10 minutes). The advantage of this approach is that it tends to keep the conversation on topic and moving at a faster pace.

thinkPrivate ideation in Retrium


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Other retrospective techniques


Liked, Learned, Lacked, & Longed For. 4Ls is a great way of celebrating a team's successes while also finding out what it can improve on.

Start, Stop, Continue

A simple way of generating action-oriented feedback for the team.

Lean Coffee™

A democratically generated, agenda-less retrospective.

Mad, Sad, Glad

A good way of checking the emotional pulse of the team.

Finally, a way for your team to run effective retrospectives. Every single time.

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