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Short on time? Here’s how to run a quick retrospective

PostsProject management
Lauren Grabau

Lauren Grabau

February 17, 2022

Almost everything in the modern world is fast-paced: fast food, fast fashion, and a neverending stream of Fast & Furious movies. It only makes sense that you have a fast option for conducting a retrospective on your sprints. They are called sprints, after all.

Maybe, your team just started experimenting with retrospectives. Or, you truly don’t have time between all your tight deadlines to sit down together for half an hour. Either way, we’ve got the perfect retrospective for you: the aptly named quick retrospective.

Find our convenient quick retrospective template in Cacoo to get started with your own run-through.

Benefits of a quick retrospective

From time to time, you may feel tempted to skip the retrospective stage when everything goes well or an iteration is shorter than usual. But that would be a mistake. A great outcome doesn’t automatically mean every step was without hiccups. So, if you want to get an accurate picture in a short timeframe, here’s how a quick retrospective can help.

  • Reduce the risk of future problems: consulting with the whole team, even for a short time, allows you to learn about issues someone else encountered. Other team members may confront problems and solve them alone, but the issues are still worth discussing with future projects in mind.
  • Monitor the project scope: skipping retrospectives can increase the chance of scope creep or poor direction. The shortened timeframe allows your team to ensure your goals are still on track without slowing down your project.
  • Get new teams acclimated: a fast, simple retrospective method is a perfect introduction to the practice if your team is new to Agile sprints. The Good, Bad, Ideas, and Actions model is easy to understand and implement before moving on to more in-depth techniques.

How to keep a quick retrospective on task

The Quick Retrospective may not look too different from other retrospectives, such as Mad Sad Glad, Keep Problem Try, Start Stop Continue, and especially the 4Ls Retrospective. But we can assure you, with this one, it’s all in the timing.

While other retrospectives may range between five to fifteen minutes (or unlimited time if you have it to spare and hit a good talking point), it’s essential for each point in a quick retrospective to be less than a minute long.

Send out directions (or this blog) and your quick retrospective template, so team members know what to expect. They should come to the retrospective meeting with exactly one idea for each category.

You can hold the meeting in person or virtually. Make sure you have a whiteboard or monitor to share your Cacoo template. If you meet online, use a diagramming tool where all members can log in and edit together in real-time. Allowing team members to fill out and add their sticky notes to the template in advance can save you even more time if you’re really in a crunch.

What was good?

When everyone is gathered, they should already know the drill and have their four ideas ready. Start with the ‘What was good?’ category. Go around to every team member and allow them to share one thing that went off without a hitch in your most recent sprint. Each person can talk for one minute maximum. Make sure to be strict in holding to this rule.

Once everyone has shared, you’ll have a list of things that shouldn’t be touched in your next iteration. Maybe, you even see a pattern of people listing this same thing. The consistency reinforces that a particular aspect went well and, hopefully, doesn’t signify that only one aspect of the project went well.

What was bad?

Just like the last step, everyone gets one minute to share one thing they think went poorly in your previous sprint. If anyone has multiple ideas to address, this is where prioritization comes into play. Everyone must choose the ONE most important thing that needs improvement. They can always suggest another idea for the following sprint if their first suggestion is a priority in the upcoming iteration.

When everyone has had their chance to add to the list, you can move on to working to solve these issues.


Take a look at the list of issues from the previous step. If you have a larger team and need to slim down the list, you can conduct a quick vote where every team member gets to choose their top three issues. After voting has ended, eliminate the less popular issues to deal with a shorter list (feel free to leave the list as long or short as you think you can handle for the next sprint).

Next, either leave team members to think by themselves or put them in small teams. Give them five to ten minutes to brainstorm ideas that could help solve the issues you identified. That can include getting to the bottom of what may be causing the problem or coming up with actionable items to improve key processes next time around.

When time is up, have your team share their ideas, and add them to the list under the ‘Ideas’ category. Again, depending on how long or short this list ends up being, you can conduct another vote. Then, you can choose which ideas seem like they’re worth testing before moving on.


The final step builds on the previous one. Looking at the ideas the team put forth, create a plan of direct action. That way, whoever is involved in the next iteration can solve the problem in the ‘Bad’ category.

Make sure the action has a specific assignee, so it isn’t forgotten when the work begins and tight deadlines start coming at you.

Take notes on the meeting and send them out after it’s over. Then, you can track whether each new action is working to solve the proposed problems. It’s a good idea to discuss these insights at the beginning of your next retrospective to show everyone the outcome of their contributions.

Aaaaaaaaaand… that’s it! Just as quickly as promised!

Final thoughts

The Quick Retrospective is straightforward and easy to conduct. But as you get further into a project and more used to conducting retrospectives, it’s worthwhile to find a more in-depth method that works well for you. This could be any of the ones mentioned above or even the Starfish Retrospective.

Fortunately, Cacoo offers a variety of retrospective templates to experiment with, so you can find the one that’s best for your team. You can also check out our quick guide to six types of retrospectives to learn more and change up your format whenever it makes sense.

Once you get the hang of reflecting on your sprints, you’ll find ways to constantly improve and speed up.

This post was originally published on October 17, 2020, and updated most recently on February 17, 2022.



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