How do you do your retrospectives?

I was wondering, how you all are doing your retrospectives.

Do you have your standards, that you use? Or do you like for example themed retrospectives? Do you follow “a bigger plan” with what you’d like to achieve with the team within the next month, for example? And if you have your retrospective - do you like to stick to your plan or do you adapt during the retrospective?

I’ve tried to have a good mix between “sticking to my retro-plan” and some free discussion parts, if I see, that the team really needs some time to talk a bit longer about a topic to get it closed with the retro.

What do you think?


That’s a simple one to answer: yes :sweat_smile:


  1. I do have some standard formats I use when the usual “good/ bad” topic is necessary
  2. When a team member, the whole team, or I myself have a special topic to work on, I use a themed retro
  3. With regards to retros, a “bigger plan” is mostly coupled with point 2 above. I don’t tie “bigger team development plans” just to retros.
  4. I do have a plan for when the retro starts. And due to “circumstances” or interesting developments, I change the plan.

So that’s what I do. But every team is different, and so is every retro.

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Looks like your approach is similar to mine. What’s your experience - do your teams rate the freestyle part positively when you adjust a planned retro due to circumstances?

I’ve had both - that the team wishes to stick with the plan, and also that the unplanned discussion part makes it more responsive to their needs, even if it means not all practices are done.

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Most of the time, I tell the team immediately if I want to change the plan or why I did. So the discussion, whether it’s a good thing to do or not, is part of the retro.

And we should be proud of every team that sees that being “more responsive to their needs” has more value than “all practices are done”. Das macht doch dann auch dieses herrlich warme, fusselige Gefühl im Bauch (untranslateable :sweat_smile:).

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Yes, I think so, too. Maybe the feeling is joy, but I like the untranslateable wording. It makes me happy, so to say.

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I often improvise using liberating structures when there is a need for something deeper

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oh, that sound’s good. Do you have any favorite liberating structure that you use? And how much time do you need for that? (how long are your retros mainly)

I often use impromptu net as checkin/sync and 15% as checkout.

then for the middle:

  • if we need to observe w3 it might be good
  • if we need to diagnose it might work trojka
  • if we need to reflect and improve ecocycle might be good

and we often introduce the retrospective with a short analysis of the metrics, looking at the board and/or the team okr.

I work as an external coach for different teams / companies … so in reality every team has different approaches / styles

I usually commit 90 minutes to a retrospective, but often end up in 60 or so…

  • when in person we often continue to talk informally over coffee in the remaining time
  • when online I suggest to everyone to take time for themselves, for the family or even just to have a coffee at the café next door
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and with new teams, if the psychological safety is low I try to build it with a simple 124all, if high triz is awesome :grinning:

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Typically, I pursue a goal with the retro. Depending on what I have observed in the sprint (sometimes also a longer period) or what individual team members or all have told me, I design the retro. The methods can be old ones (4Ls, Start Stop Continue, etc.), as needed also new ones, because they help to work on a specific topic (e.g. trust, harmony, self-organization) well in the team.
It has also happened during the retro that the team has other wishes, or a topic develops in a direction that I did not see coming before, so that I then have to change my plan. Therefore, I always have a plan B in my back pocket.