Sales woman in office doing agile sprint retro with laptop

How to run a retrospective that actually works

The purpose of a retrospective is to allow teams to share insights about a past working cycle and gather feedback (both positive and negative). A retro also serves as an important moment for the team to identify improvements that can be made. It also creates a chance to assess other items key for access such as; team morale, issues of contention, and overall confidence.

Conducting retros frequently and consistently helps teams continuously improve their performance, but how can we ensure that teams are getting the most out of their retros?

How to run more effective retros

Retros can be facilitated in many different ways, some may take a lot longer and explore the group’s experience, and some attempt to make the experience enjoyable by incorporating activities. Regardless of the method, the aim remains the same: evaluate team productivity and possible improvements.

Here’s how you can set up your next retro up for success:

Set your agenda

Use a design thinking process for group collaboration and evaluation. You can focus on your team’s thoughts, learn about frustrating challenges, and figure out how to resolve them together in five clear steps.

Create the right space

Invite only the people who need to be there. It's your responsibility to create a safe, comfortable environment where everyone feels free to be candid. Additionally, ensure that everyone attending  is contributing to the discussion, and that keep the meeting focused on workflows and practices as opposed to individuals.

Schedule enough time

You can't pack a thorough retro into a 15-minute catch-up. It takes time to find all the roadblocks and risks. Give your team space to figure out what's wrong, why it's happening, and how to move forward.

Run them regularly

Make it a habit. Having regular retros keeps potential setbacks from derailing your productivity. Find a cadence that works for your team and run regular retro meetings.

Try a pre-designed template for your next retro

Axis comes with ready-made templates so you can plug-in and run your retro without worrying if it'll work. Start here or customise the perfect meeting that uncovers your strengths and weaknesses.


We recommend: Finish the Sentence.

Share is 100% unskippable. Keep things casual and safe. It makes it easier to talk honestly. Pick a template, like "Finish the Sentence," then add a statement that breaks the ice.

“I start my morning routine with/by…”

“This past weekend, I…”

“My favourite lunchtime meal is….”


We recommend: Rose, Thorn, Bud or SWOT.

A theme is important, but don't delve too deep. At this stage, you compare the general ideas that worked in your favour to what could be improved. Next, you’ll analyse your team’s successes and limitations to figure out why they occurred, but right now, the main focus is what happened.

Start with “Rose, Thorn, Bud,” a recommended template that helps you identify successes (roses), opportunities (buds), and struggles (thorns).

You can also choose “SWOT,” another template designed to find your team’s current position through strengths and weaknesses, then its future position through opportunities and threats.


We recommend: Idea Creator, Glad, Sad, Mad,  or I like, I wish, What if.

In Create, Axis gives you anonymous sharing tools so everyone feels comfortable giving candid responses. At this stage, understand the “why” and “how” behind the positives and negatives you identified in the Frame step.

Try “Idea Creator,” a template where participants can freely share their analyses of the highs and lows. Other templates, like “Glad, Sad, Mad” or “I like, I wish, What if” let you learn how people frame the positives, frustrations, and opportunities.


We recommend: Forced Ranking or Value/Effort Matrix.

You can only make impactful improvements for the next cycle once you look into your team's overall potential and obstacles. You'll know where your resources are and where they need to be to improve results.

"Forced Ranking" gives you a clear view of what everyone considers key to your success. Participants rank the ideas from Create, then Axis sorts everyone’s responses based on what’s most important to the team.

Get a more detailed summary with “Value/Effort Matrix.” Your team sorts the ideas based on their overall value and how much effort it'll take. Use this template to hone in on priorities.


Finish your retro on a productive note by setting up specific goals and action items for improvement. When the whole team agrees on what to adjust, everyone can contribute to fixing it.

Delegate responsibilities with  “Action List,” create accountability for each team member, and export meeting data for future reference. Now that you've identified and prioritised the bottlenecks, everyone's more invested in resolving them.

Preparing for the next team retro shouldn't consume your weekly hours. Try one of our built-in templates and start seamlessly implementing new improvements.

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