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4Ls Retrospective:
Liked, Learned, Lacked, & Longed For

There is nothing like some great alliteration to stick in your mind and roll off the tongue. Perhaps that's why we love to run a project retrospective that focuses on what teams Liked, Learned, Lacked, & Longed For...also known as a 4Ls retrospective! 😁 This popular technique is loved by agile teams for its ability to help teams establish both short and long-term goals for future improvements.

A 4Ls retrospective is a great option if you want to...

Highlight both positive and negative processes through the lens of growth.

Run an agile retrospective meeting that examines both past performance and future projects.

Preparing for the exercise

Before the retrospective starts, the facilitator selects 4Ls technique from the options in Retrium's retrospective exercises toolbox..

Setting the Stage

To start the retrospective, the facilitator should explain the meaning of the 4Ls. While this retrospective technique shines because of its simplicity, make sure you still take some time to ensure everyone understands and agrees on the definition of each "L". Shared understanding is the foundation of any successful team activity.

Liked

  • What did the team really enjoy about the previous project cycle? What went better than expected? Emphasize the positive aspects of an otherwise difficult sprint!
  • Learned
  • What was a valuable lesson learned during the last sprint? These can be technical things (like the importance of unit testing) or nontechnical things (like a new and effective way to keep a key stakeholder informed).
  • Lacked
  • What did the team lack during the last iteration? What could have gone better?
  • Longed For
  • What support did the team desire during the last iteration? Again, these items can be technical or nontechnical!

    Set the team's expectation for how long the retrospective should take (usually 30-60 minutes of uninterrupted time, depending on the size of the group). After the facilitator makes sure the entire team feels comfortable, you're ready to run the retrospective. 🏃

    Ideation

    To get off the starting line, the facilitator creates a timebox of 10-15 minutes to brainstorm ideas that will be added to each column. In order to hear everyone's valuable insights, make sure your online retrospective tool allows participants to keep their ideas private during this phase. Creating a safe space for everyone increases the likelihood of objective feedback...and we know a handy digital collaboration tool that makes this easier than ever. 😉 When the timebox expires, the participants should finish adding their ideas to each column.

    Grouping

    Sometimes teams are on the same page 📖  and create notes that contain similar themes. Other times, fresh perspectives can highlight different opinions. 🤔 Luckily, there is a way to make sure everyone's opinions can be acknowledged while also saving time: grouping! 

    By asking participants to collaboratively group ideas into logical themes, the team can read through all the notes and make sure that all major topics are discussed. For example, you might see lots of comments about tools, so it sounds like the team wants to discuss “tooling.” Or did bugs pop up in several notes? Then “testing” might be a solid topic to explore during the discussion phase. 

    Announce a new timebox (10-15 minutes should be adequate time) and encourage the participants to actively discuss the array of feedback.

    Dot Voting

    If there are a lot of ideas to discuss, it can be tough to structure the discussion in a meaningful way. If that's the case, the facilitator can opt to use Dot Voting to prioritize the discussion. Each team member is given a certain number of votes to indicate their preference for a specific group of sticky notes.

    Discussion

    Now it's time for the discussion! The facilitator should announce the timebox for a discussion of the groups (a 20-40 minute time period should be enough). If dot voting was used, then the team should discuss the groups in prioritized order (Retrium generates the order of discussion automatically). If dot voting was not used, the facilitator can choose the order of discussion. 

    Pro tip: depending on how many topics the team has to discuss, the facilitator can choose to timebox the discussion of each individual idea as well (for 5 or 10 minutes). The advantage of this approach is that it tends to keep the conversation focused and moving at a reasonable pace. 

    But that isn't all the facilitator should be tracking! Successful retrospectives are all about trying to find creative solutions and ways to improve, so after each discussion topic has been covered, the facilitator should write down any proposed action items and add them to the action plan.  

    By the end of the discussion, there should be a clear vision 🔭  for future sprints and upcoming projects. Utilizing the 4Ls retrospective template in your team retrospective will help you understand the emotional perspective of your team, and ensure that the group is on a path towards continuous improvement.  

    Ready to give the 4Ls retrospective technique a try?

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