Strengths-Based Retrospective

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A strengths-based retrospective is a different approach for an agile / Scrum retrospective. Instead of coming up with a list of actions to start doing new things (which you might not be capable of doing), your actions result in doing more of the things that you are already doing and which you are good at.

Length of time:

45 - 90 minutes

Short Description:

A strength-based retrospective consists of two steps: discovering strengths, then defining actions that use them. Both steps consist of asking retrospective questions.


Flip charts and post-it notes.


Discovering strengths: Think of something that succeeded in this iteration that the team managed to accomplish beyond expectation, and which produced benefits for you, the team, and/or for your customers. Now ask yourself and your team the following questions:

 * How did we do it? What did we do to make it successful?
 * What helped us do it? Which expertise or skills made the difference? Which strengths that you possess made it possible?
 * How did being part of a team help to realize it? What did team members do to help you? Which strengths does your team have?

The questions are based on Appreciative Inquiry, an approach that focuses on value and energy. These questions give visibility to good things that happened and explore the underlying strengths that made it possible.

If you are using the four key questions, the question "What did we do well?" can also be used as a solution-focused approach to find strengths that can be deployed to address problems a team is facing.

Defining actions: Think of a problem that you had in the past iteration, one that is likely to happen again. For example a problem that is keeping you and your team from delivering benefits for your customers? Now ask:

 * How can you use your individual or team strengths to solve this problem?
 * What would you do more frequently that would help prevent the problem from happening again?
 * Which actions can you take, which you are already capable of?

Again, this applies appreciative inquiry by envisioning what can be done using the previously discovered strengths and giving energy to the team members to carry it out.


This exercise is described in the book Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives, written by Luis Gonçalves and Ben Linders. The book can be downloaded from InfoQ or LeanPub. Also available as a Paperback Edition