Retrospective Techniques for Exploring Fresh Perspectives

by Phil Rogers

The universe of retrospective facilitation techniques grows ever larger. If you’re looking for a new technique to try, check out one of these and also be sure to check our video on Key Ingredients to an Agile Retrospective.

Let’s Make Socrates Our Retrospective Facilitator

The Let’s Make Socrates Our Retrospective Facilitator technique uses the Socratic Method as a starting point. If we boil the Socratic Method down to a couple of phases—Deconstruction and Remediation—we can come up with some interesting and valuable questions for retrospectives.

C-Level for a Day Retrospective

In the C-Level for a Day Retrospective, you challenge yourself to think about what actions you would take if you had C-level decision-making authority. You might, for example, prioritize definitive steps that require senior decision-making authority to address a particular challenge.

Fastest Written Retrospective Technique Ever

The Fastest Written Retrospective Technique Ever gives you the option to capture inputs from the team in advance. Well before the retrospective, provide the team with written prompts and ask them to come to the retrospective having thought about (and hopefully written about) how they might answer those questions or address particular challenges.

Choose Five

Choose Five requires some advance preparation. The facilitator can create (or use prepared lists) sets of at least five adjectives starting with particular letters of the alphabet. The facilitator asks team members to choose a letter of the alphabet, and the retrospective conversation that follows is based on what thoughts come to mind after reviewing the adjectives that start with that letter. (There is also a variation where team members can keep choosing different letters of the alphabet until they land on a set of adjectives they like best.)

Retrospective from a Hat

Retrospective from a Hat injects fun into the retrospective. Team members are given the option to randomly draw something from a hat and whatever item they pick guides the direction of the retrospective. The facilitator can put many different things in the hat: various retrospective exercises, particular topics for discussion, specific questions, etc.

Appreciation Post Cards

Appreciation Post Cards is a variation on Appreciative Inquiry. Collect written notes of appreciation from team members and the facilitator plays the postmaster, delivering the notes to recipients after the retrospective.

Appreciation Game

The Appreciation Game is designed to be an “end-to-end” retrospective. It includes a series of activities, based on Appreciative Inquiry, that represent all five of the phases in Esther Derby and Diana Larsen’s book Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great.

Program Retrospective

If you’re looking for an example set of activities for facilitating a complete, end-to-end retrospective for a longer-term initiative or program, take a look at the Program Retrospective.

Thirty-Minute Retrospective

For facilitators who routinely work with multiple teams, it can be especially challenging to find a time to facilitate separate retrospectives with each of them. The 30-Minute Retrospective provides an agenda that can complete in a reasonably short amount of time while still covering quite a bit of ground.

Tell a Story — in 100 Words or Less

In the Tell a Story retrospective, the facilitator chooses some “shaping words” and asks retrospective participants to write a story (of no more than 100 words) that includes the shaping words.

Looking for Even More Retrospective Techniques?

For even more examples of retrospective facilitation techniques, see the following online references: