I have never facilitated a retrospective before and I have been asked to facilitate one on Tuesday. I have ordered a book which is arriving tomorrow and I have been checking out various websites.

I am thinking of keeping things simple so that I don't stress out.

Can someone please suggest a simple, yet effective technique which I could use and how roughly it should play out?

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    I don't want towrite an answer since I cannot improve upon the excellent answers already given. I would simply add that it would be great to kick off your retro by finding out who really wants to be there. That will be invaluable for evaluating the retro afterwards. Start with the Explorer-Prisoner ESVP Game. It takes 2 minutes and can be run in person or remotely anonymously. Get everyone to write whether they are an Explorer (Enthusiastic/Excited), Shopper (Interested/Ambivalent), Vacationer (Simply taking a break from work) or Prisoner (I am here because I have to be/will be punished) Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 9:27
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    Write them on a Post It note and drop into a box. Run the experiment at the next Retro and see if the numbers changed. You want to be trending up to E/S and if it becomes more V/P then the team are losing faith in the retro/your ability to remove impediments. Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 9:28

3 Answers 3


Awesome for you. The retrospective can be one of the most fun and informative "ceremonies" of agile.

So once you get the book, Diana is going to recommended never falling into a rut and tailoring your retros based on what is the needed to be focused on, or to take the team into a new direction.

When you first get started though, simple is very good.

Retrospective Circle - Brain Storm

On a white board draw a huge circle (3-4 feet across) and segment it into three sections. Label the sections "Less of", "Same As", "More of".

Give everyone a stack of postits and sharpies (Don't use ball point pens, too hard to read). Have them start filling them out and putting them up on the wall. (Advanced tip- If you have a lot of team members who tend to be quiet and not talk a lot in meetings, give them a heads up you'll be doing this and give them postits ahead of time so they can generate content before the meeting). EDIT- Highly recommended you have a couple of starter post-its. If no one looks like they are moving to put stuff on the board, put yours up.

Affinity map the postits. If four people all post about the build server, group the postits together. Do this as people are putting content up.

Dot Voting

When done, give everyone 3-5 stickers. Explain Dot Voting to them. Make sure they know they can vote more than once for something.

When the voting is done, look for the two to three things with the most dots, no matter the category. If any of these are outside the teams control, capture these to the side and grab another item that the team can control. You want 2-3 items the team can control.

Make a plan with the team right there and then. Who, Does What, By When. Set dates, assign owners. Don't leave the meeting until a plan is in place.

Making it Stick - Action Planning

Now comes the hard part. If you want people to keep doing retrospectives, they need to see value out of it. If they come to retros and nothing ever happens, they will start to question why.

Make sure those items the team picked get planned and acted on. Putting them on big pieces of paper and posting them next to the task board, so they are seen during every stand up is a great way to keep it fresh.


You can completely keep this inside of an hour. My personal mantra is you can do anything you did in 60 minutes in 45-50 minutes.

  • Meeting Start and Agenda: 5 minutes Start 5 minutes after even if people are late, Agenda is posted on wall so late people know what it is. Agenda is time boxing the three phases "Brain Storm", "Dot Voting", "Action Planning".

  • Brain Storm: 15 minutes Take two minutes tops to explain the circle. Once you've explained the rules, set a timer for 10 minutes.

  • Dot Voting: 5 minutes

  • Action Planning: 20 minutes Unless the top vote items are really low hanging fruit (You institute a late jar for the Stand Up), the goal here is not to come up with a final plan. Instead it is to schedule the meetings and next steps for each item chosen. Final plans should be within the next week.

Total time: 45 minutes

For more retrospective resources you can also check out:

  • Many thanks for this Joel. It has really relaxed my mind and I am definitely going to use this technique. If you have time, it would be really great if you could comment on timing. I need to time-box my retro to 1 hour. Any ideas if I run out of time OR if I end up with time remaining?
    – TheLearner
    Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 9:57
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    I've updated the post with an agenda, time box outline. Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 0:49
  • Much appreciated!
    – TheLearner
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 8:10
  • Thanks for a superb response, this was really helpful in understanding an important ceremony of Scrum.... Many Thanks. Commented Sep 20, 2015 at 12:34

Joels answer is great and I'll apply it also. For sure, I up voted it. My answer is to provide a second and more generalised alternative.

There is a general methodology for such "problems":

  1. Collect
  2. Structure
  3. Grade / rank / assess (it's bewerten in German)

How you realise the single steps depends a lot of the participating people.


The goal is to identify all relevant topics without missing something of importance. The method to succeed depends on the personalities the team is made of. So, if not done before: Identify your team (w.r.t. the characters). There are multiple models and stereotypes. I like the Insights model.

The techniques you could apply are e.g.

  • brain storming
  • silent brain storming
  • structured group interviews where you prepared categories to talk about
  • image drawing (don't know the right name) where you start on the left side of the paper and ask for image analogies for specific topics (work environment, team spirit). The idea is that the initial (e.g.) "high mountain* of problem complexity evolves to a "picnic site* over some retrospectives (or a death valley).
  • Ask the team to build a diary of the last sprint, including all kind of stuff (e.g. Jim's birthday, the black out, when Steven broke Jenkis) afterwards ask about what went bad, what went good


The goal is to erase duplicates in order to focus for the next step. Depending on your way of noting, just put similar things together. Depending on the available time do this during or after the collection phase. Always ask the team if it's right what you're doing. You don't have to ask out loud. If you know the team, use body language.


Figure out what's important to the team. Again there are multiple voting techniques and again it's the team build up driving to choice the "correct" one.


The collection phase is critical. The two other phases will be successful often by just asking.

To succeed in the collection phase you have to find the "right" technique for the team depending on the included characters.

Don't be afraid to experiment after you found a technique working for your team. This will bring new points of view.


I would recommend this page.

You can plan a retrospective in a very cool way - building it from 5 blocks.

There is many ideas depending on what you want to achieve at a given meeting.

It helped me many times when I had a lack of creativity :)

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