Retrospective idea: one-word

Image by Sydney Sims on Unsplash.

A simple retrospective exercise I like to use is the ‘one-word retrospective’ found in Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives by Luis Gonçalves and Ben Linders. This exercise is particularly useful for helping teams deal with their feelings.

Simply ask every team member to summarize in one word how they felt about the last sprint.

Once everyone has written their one-word on a Post-it, as scrum master I would read them out and then group them as either positive, neutral or negative. This visualises an immediate ’emotional weather report’ about the last sprint.

Alternatively, go around the room and ask everyone individually for their word and write it on a whiteboard. The method of how you gather this information can depend on how well the team knows one another and how open they are towards one another. The benefit of using this exercise in teams with little experience of working together is that this can help build trust and openness, respect and understanding for one another.

Gonçalves and Linders offer a couple of reasons for using this retrospective exercise:

  1. When there are sensitive issues that need to be discussed within a team, e.g. when internal conflicts are impacting team morale.
  2. As a check-in exercise to help a team get ready for a more in-depth retrospective exercise.

A word of advice from Gonçalves and Linders, “it’s important to deal with issues that are brought up. People reach out and take risks by discussing them. They have to feel rewarded by the fact that the team does something with them. The team members have to leave the room feeling that they have been heard and understood. And they should feel that they have the strength to solve the issues together as a team.”

Have you ever used this style of retrospective? What have you learned from it? Was it useful?

Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives: A Toolbox of Retrospective Exercises (InfoQ, 2015) by Luis Gonçalves and Ben Linders is available as a free download from InfoQ.

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Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 48 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Scrum master at Vision Ltd, Dundee. Latterly, web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and former warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall. Enneagram type FOUR and introvert, I am a non-stipendiary priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir, play guitar, write, draw and laugh… a lot.

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