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appreciative retrospective by Mind Map: appreciative retrospective
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appreciative retrospective

appreciative inquiry

set the stage

state an affirmative goal for the session

After stating the goal and giving an overview of the agenda for the retrospective, offer a quick round-robin question to each team member, “Which of our working agreements did you see in action during this iteration (or release)?” This question brings team members’ attention into the retrospective session and reminds the group of their working agreements—by focusing on the times when they followed them.

gather data

Team members ask and answer a series of three or four questions that focus awareness on individual and team strengths and successes.

This is a brainstorming exercise. Distribute post-its of 3 colours. On each coloured post-it, have everyone write the team’s successes, strengths and events during the past iteration. Use one colour for each. Write as many as possible. Stick these up on one section of the board.

generate insights

Follow the data gathering questions with a question that creates a vision

Wait 2 or 3 minutes for team members to connect with this vision. Then ask: “What changes did we implement now that resulted in such productive and satisfying work in the future?”

Write down all the answers.

Look back over all of the answers the team gave in the last two phases. Pull out common ideas. Look for patterns, common threads, and compelling ideas, then consider why these hold significance for the team.

Brainstorm the future (10 minutes)

Affinity Mapping (15 minutes)

Dot voting (5 minutes)

decide what to do

Based on what they have identified as their future successes, strengths and positive events, ask the team what actions can they take to achieve them. These could be in the form of “do more of, keep doing” actions. Pick two to three actions but not more.

Based on the data and insights, discuss the implications of different possible actions

Create a list of potential action steps.

Choose no more than three small actions the team can take during the next increment of work. Identify which team members want to lead the follow through effort for each action. Only volunteers with zeal for the action item need apply. No one gets “volunteered.” Ask team members to include the tasks in iteration or release planning and report on the outcomes at the next retrospective, or sooner.

Retrospective leaders can create various activities around affirmative questions by having team members record some key words from answers on sticky notes or index cards for easy sorting. Or record answers on flip charts or white boards. Use dot voting or consensus techniques for selecting final actions.


Reiterate the actions the team chose to undertake. Lead the “Offer Appreciations” activity or hold a full “Temperature Reading,” if you have time. Ask that team members write the thing or things they liked most about this retrospective, so the retrospective leader can incorporate that feedback and design even more satisfying, enjoyable retrospectives.

Voila! A retrospective held entirely with an appreciative inquiry approach.

Keep the lists you’ve created of patterns, common threads and compelling ideas. They will provide a rich source of future retrospective goal topics. Look for other sources of appreciative questions to hone in more specifically to those topics. Sources include:Appreciative Team Building by Whitney, et al, and Encyclopedia of Positive Questions by Whitney, et al.

A Lightweight Appreciative Retrospection



Open Discussion

Playing the Game

Game Preparation

Setting the Stage