Agile Retrospective Technique #2

30-minute retrospective

Although I would not recommend a retrospective as brief as thirty minutes for newer teams, established teams may be able to get in, get out, and get on their way in thirty minutes or less. The likelihood that a team can complete this retro in 30 minutes depends on: 1) the skills of the facilitator; 2) the size of the team; 3) what is going on with the team at that time.

Here is an example of an agenda for a 30-minute retrospective. Agile coaches, Scrum Masters, and others familiar with Derby and Larsen’s Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great will recognize the section headings (set the stage; gather data; generate insights; decide what to do; closure).

You may also find this is a simple retrospective agenda to use if you do not have a lot of time to prepare, and can also be a welcome alternative so you do not fall into the rut of doing the same retrospective the same way, time after time (facilitators who run a plus-minus-delta retro every time — I am talking to you ; ).

30-minute retrospective agenda


Reflect openly and honestly on the work we just completed, arrive at a group understanding of where we are as a team as of this moment, and identify executable Action Items that can help us improve during the next sprint/iteration.

pre-retro (things for the facilitator to do)

  • Write the agenda on a white board/flip chart so that it is always visible during the meeting (and/or share a document via web conferencing software if you’re working with a distributed team)
  • For collocated teams, ensure you have a good supply of sticky notes and markers/pens (markers [especially fine-point Sharpies] are preferred because it’s easier to read items from a distance); for virtual teams, you will have to be creative on how you collect the data during the gather data/generate insights portion of the retro.

retro part I. set the stage (5 minutes)

- Set the tone for the retrospective session: ——Thank everyone for attending — —Emphasize the importance of open and honest communication; that the purpose of the retro is not a “blame game,” and that the comments made during the session belong to the team (i.e., they are not intended for external consumption)
- Ask each member of the team, one by one, to answer ANY ONE of the following questions (it’s up to the facilitator to decide which question to ask, or whether to use a different question):
——“In three words or less, what would you like to get out of the retrospective?”
——“In your mind, the retrospective would be a success if ______”
——“An example of an issue/topic we have not addressed as a team at past retrospectives is _______”

retro part II. gather data/generate insights (10 minutes)

Ask each member of the team to take five minutes to write their answers to the following questions on sticky notes/note cards, where they use a different color sticky note/note card to answer each type of question:

Based on the sprint /iteration that just ended, a practice I would like us to KEEP is _______” [green sticky]

Based on the sprint/iteration that just ended, a practice I would like us to DROP is _______” [red/orange sticky]

Based on the sprint/iteration that just ended, a practice we did not use that I would like us to ADD is _______” [blue sticky]

Based on the sprint/iteration that just ended, a practice I would like us to IMPROVE is _______” [yellow sticky]

The goal is for each team member to complete AT LEAST ONE of each type.

Draw a large + sign on a white board (or create one on a tabletop using tape) that is big enough to contain a lot of sticky notes/note cards, and label each quadrant as shown below, with DROP in the upper left quadrant, ADD in the upper right quadrant, KEEP in the lower left quadrant, and IMPROVE in the lower right quadrant. Have each team member place their items in the appropriate quadrants.

The example below provides an example of what the white board or table top might look like once team members have added their items. (in this example, the items are not color-coded as suggested above).


Ask the team to gather in front of the white board/table, and as a group, have them consolidate any duplicate (or near-duplicate) sticky items (by placing one duplicate on top of the other).

retro part III. decide what to do (10 minutes)

Ask the team to pick a quadrant (e.g., the IMPROVE quadrant) where they see one or more items that they would like to focus on during the next sprint/iteration. Ask the team to vote on which item in the quadrant they think is most import to take immediate action on, by placing a dot on the applicable sticky note (one vote per team member). Identify the sticky note with the most dots.

Repeat the same process for one more quadrant.

For the two items identified as most important, ask the team to identify one or more specific Actions that can be taken to address the issue/topic during the next sprint/iteration. Write the Actions down, and identify an owner for each one.

retro part IV. closure (5 minutes)

- Thank the team for attending.

- Take a picture of the completed quadrant chart for later team reference.

- Agree as a group on where to “radiate” the Actions so they are always visible (e.g., post them somewhere in the team area).

- Close the retrospective