5 Agile Retrospective Formats to Put in Your Toolkit

The agile retrospective is one of the most important meetings that any team will ever conduct. Are you making the most of this time to make continuous improvement? If not, then you have to figure out the best way to get better. In this guide, you will learn about the agile retrospective formats to add to your toolkit in order to achieve your goals.

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What Are Agile Retrospective Formats?

An agile retrospective format enables the process of reviewing and analyzing past working methods in order to quantify and qualify all of the elements involved. The goal is to determine what worked and what didn’t. 

Once the information from that analysis has come back, it will help your team to formulate a new set of goals that are more realistic. It will also enable you to plan for the next set of actions to take. 

There are different agile retrospective formats available for you and your team to use. The format you choose will determine how you are able to extract the information you need to get to where your team needs to be. The collective conclusion of the team meeting helps to develop practical results to outline your success in the future. 

Top 5 Agile Retrospective Formats and Examples

Your agile retrospective meetings can be held using a variety of formats. The type of format you choose is critical to achieving your goal. As a team, you want to use the most effective format to build the foundation for long-term success.

A typical format for an agile retrospective will contain the following elements: 

  • Icebreaker
  • Review of the outstanding action items from the previous retrospective
  • Retrospective activity
  • Assigning action items to team members

Below is a list of the top 5 agile retrospective formats that you can choose from. Each of these formats is discussed in more detail to achieve a better understanding of how to use each format. 

1. Sailboat Sprint Retrospective

This agile retrospective format is designed to be fun so that team members can analyze their respective work in a broader sense. It uses a sailing metaphor, as the name implies, in order to visualize the factors that are helping the team move towards its goal. 

The sailboat represents the team and your goal is on an island. The wind is the factor that helps to propel the team towards the island – the goal. An anchor is used to specify which factors are limiting the success or slowing the team down in its effort. Rocks are also used to represent potential risks involved in the project.

The facilitator can use this format in a number of ways. If the team is aware of its goals, the purpose of this endeavor is to identify what is potentially preventing the boat from making it to the island. It can also be used to gather the opinions of the members of the team about the current goal. It is a good step towards making sure that everyone is on the same page or if the goal needs tweaking.

sailboat sprint agile retrospective format

2. 4Ls Agile Retrospective

The 4Ls retrospective format consists of the following: Liked, Learned, Lacked, and Longed For. 

This is one of the top agile retrospective formats around and involves the team reflecting on the previous retrospective activity. The members of the meeting will identify the items they liked and what they believe are lacking. They will also point out the things that they have learned and what they longed for or desire to achieve.

This meeting works by asking all members of the meeting to list one item for each category: liked, learned, lacked, and longed for. Each member will be given the opportunity to explain each of their choices. The team will then discuss and brainstorm the ideas presented. Once that is done, the team will come to a consensus on what action items to work on and assign them to corresponding members. 

This agile retrospective format works because it builds focus. The team can work towards one action item at a time, allowing you to gradually chip your way towards the main goal. 

3. Good, Bad, Ideas, Action Retrospective Format

This format is another technique that will help the team review the results of the previous sprint. Specifically, the purpose is to identify what worked and what didn’t so that you can come up with practical and realistic steps toward the completion of smaller goals. 

This format is also known as Quick Retrospective since it is an efficient way to dive into the content of the previous sprint. At the same time, the team can gain insights into the good and bad elements so that action and ideas can be developed. 

This is a simple and straightforward formate. 

4. KALM Retrospective Format

KALM means Keep, Add, Less, More. With this definition, you can determine how the method works. The purpose of this format is to identify practices that are valuable to the team. As a group, the team will decide what actions to continue and which ones to discontinue. The team also has the option to add or intensify any other action items.

The elements of this agile retrospective format include the following: 

  • Keep – The elements that are valued within the team and will be continued moving forward.
  • Add – Any new idea that you would like to bring to the table with the potential of being valuable.
  • Less – The elements that have been completed and will no longer serve the team moving forward, so they have to be taken out.
  • More – The elements that must be added to an ongoing action item in order to add more value. 

5. Three Little Pigs

This agile retrospective format draws inspiration from the “Three Little Pigs” children’s story. The team builds a canvas using the three houses model. 

The team will start with the house of bricks and analyze what areas the team is doing really well on. Next, you will look at the house of sticks to identify elements what the team is doing well with, but have areas that need improvement. And finally, you will be looking at the house of straw. With this one, the team will look at the elements that are being worked on that are not producing results and require immediate action. 

This format requires the team to improve the overall agility and invites team members to be more introspective. 

essential agile retrospective formats in your toolkit

Why Do You Need an Agile Retrospective Toolkit?

A successful team needs to have an agile retrospective toolkit at their disposal. Running an efficient team is very much like keeping your car running efficiently. You need a toolkit to ensure that every part and mechanism is functioning as it should. 

The agile retrospective tools are no exchange for careful and thorough planning. However, when you have a toolkit, you can easily remedy issues as they arise. It can also augment the steps that you are currently taking to make team collaboration successful and efficient. The agile retrospective formats listed above are just one of the essential items you need in your toolkit. 

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