The retro board we apply plays a fundamental part in facilitating different types of conversations and instigating a variety of ideas from within the team. Choose the right one for your distributed team.
Among the most important factors that contribute to the impact of a retrospective meeting is how engaged each team member is in the meeting itself.
Keeping spirits and proactivity high is difficult enough when we are co-located in the same conference room. But, it’s even significantly more challenging when working remotely from our homes, surrounded by distractions like kids, pets, etc.
One of the ways retro facilitators like team leads and Scrum Masters can work to overcome this challenge is by introducing new retro formats to the group regularly. Especially in remote retrospectives, the retro board we apply plays a fundamental part in facilitating different types of conversations and instigating a variety of ideas from within the team.
For detailed instructions on how to make best use of these retro board templates, check out our library of retrospective formats. But, if you’re curious to get the lay of the land, to discover which retro board templates are available for you out of the box and determine when is the appropriate occasion to use each of them, continue reading for our top seven online retro board templates.
The most appropriate retro board layout depends mostly on the team’s maturity and how far along they are with their project. If the core team was formed recently or the project just started, it would be best to stick to a simple retro board template initially.
A traditional retro board layout consists of three areas, which the team will populate during their recurring retro meetings:
When the board is all set up and the team is gathered, proceed to populate our online retro board with ideas in each of these categories.
Through the lens of process, not content, take 10-15 minutes to consider all the positive process-related events that occurred during the sprint and list them with virtual sticky notes under the category “What worked well?”. After the allotted time passes or the team is out of suggestions, move on to the next column and repeat the exercise, populating the “What could be improved?” area of the retrospective board.
When the first two columns of our board are populated, the team engages in a discussion centered around the cards inside each until the end of the retro. As soon as there is agreement around the action items for the next sprint, they are added to the “What will we commit to doing for the next sprint?” area of the board and assigned an owner.
In time, traditional retros tend to become less engaging and even mundane. When this happens, the best thing we can do is spice things up with a new format. The Sailboat is a fun way of doing retros by looking at our work as part of a sea journey towards an island (our team goal).
Teams are encouraged to imagine their work as part of the journey and the core unit as the crew sailing a boat propelled by the wind. Each sprint is a stage of the journey toward reaching an island, which is our team’s long-term goal.
The Sailboat retro board consists of four columns:
The wind that moves us forward is a column dedicated to visualizing everything that went well during the sprint. There, the team adds the practices they’d like to continue doing and being consistent about in future iterations.
The anchors that hold us back represent all the problems or inefficiencies they’ve identified during the sprint. Appropriate items to include would be a slow review process, inaccurate acceptance criteria, etc.
The life preservers that can help us is an area of the sailboat retro that encourages the team to align around the practices that help them avoid difficult situations or have the potential to save them from failing the upcoming series of sprints.
Rocks where we could crash is an area of the board reserved for visualizing all the hidden risks the team has noticed, which could crash the boat and derail the team on the way to their long-term goal.
Discover more detailed instructions on how to run effective Sailboat retros in our dedicated guide on the topic.
Starfish retros originated back in 2006. They were first developed by the technology leader and author Patrick Kua. This format is especially useful to teams that seek a deep understanding of the behaviors that affect their performance.
The Starfish retro board consists of the following columns:
By identifying and analyzing the team’s healthy practices and the bad habits stalling them out, the group is able to create focus on improving based on the impact each one has on the work process.
This retro board format allows us to take an honest look at our behavior during the previous Sprint and link it to process problems or strengths the team might be able to accentuate.
Learn how to run effective Starfish retros from our dedicated guide in the retro library.
Plus-Minus-Delta is a fun retro format that resembles the traditional retro board template.
Running Plus-Minus-Delta retros is a perfect choice for teams that prefer to be direct and benefit more from pragmatic conversations than evaluating their own behaviors.
The Plus-Minus-Delta retro board template is also a good way to go back to the basics if your team has been experimenting with different retro formats over a number of iterations.
The standard Plus-Minus-Delta retro board consists of just three columns:
When the link to the board has been shared and everyone is present, analysis of the last sprint begins. The team populates the categories “What went well” and “What didn’t go well”, citing practices they wish to sustain in the future and those they believe are working against them.
The final column on Plus-Minus-Delta retro board template is of greatest significance. Ask the team to spend a fair chunk of the retro (at least 15-20 mins) articulating their most urgent process challenges. Discuss why each of these comments is most relevant now and tease out the solutions from the conversation.
Learn how to run effective Plus-Minus-Delta retros and get right to the point by identifying the changes to the process that need to be made.
The ground rules for any retro board template that we choose to apply require us to avoid judgment, blame, or negativity during the meeting. Unfortunately, teams often have difficulty staying neutral and diplomatic when they receive or give feedback.
The WARP retro format is perfect for teams that have a tendency to initiate the blame game during their retros. The online retro board required to run this meeting format effectively consists of the following columns:
In the Wishes category, the team adds tickets related to their vision for an ideal sprint or process. Common listings often include wishing for more timely code reviews, fewer ad hoc tasks coming in, etc.
Appreciations is dedicated to helping the team members bond as a group and showing their appreciation for the things their colleagues did during the sprint. It is fundamental for building a spirit on the foundations of camaraderie and leaving the unproductive “blame game” approach behind.
Risks represent future pitfalls that endanger the success of our upcoming sprint or even the whole project. If you find that you’re short on time, focus on this area of the WARP online retro board template in order to mitigate the risks first and foremost.
Puzzles are remaining questions for which the team still has no answers. This column of our online retro board template may serve as a parking lot for future retrospective topics or as a visualization of problems that the team should be considering in the long-term.
Learn how to run effective WARP retros to avoid retrospective meetings that spiral out of control because of the “blame game”.
The 4 Ls is a simple retro format that allows us to spice things up occasionally by analyzing our process both factually and emotionally. It is a perfect choice for mature teams that have learned to keep their retrospectives diplomatic, but, in effect, have also started to succumb to the harmful practice of hiding their true feelings on the topics they discuss.
The four Ls stand for:
All of them are visualized as separate sections on our online retro board template. During the meeting, take several minutes to populate each category and proceed to discuss the tickets that have been added to the board, starting on a positive note with the submissions in the Liked category.
In the Liked category, encourage the team to include elements of the process that they cherish or new practices that contributed positively to the sprint.
The Learned column is dedicated to documenting new findings about the workflow or our colleagues.
Lacked is reserved for sharing observations on issues that made their work more difficult during the sprint.
Longed for is where the team can display their desires for the next iteration.
Learn how to run effective 4Ls retros from our dedicated guide on the topic in ScatterSpoke’s retrospective format library.
DAKI stands for Drop-Add-Keep-Improve. It is a popular retro format used by thousands of teams worldwide. DAKI is especially suitable for teams that have passed the early stages of the project they are working on.
Teams using DAKI should be making smaller tweaks to improve their process iteratively at the latter stages of the project as opposed to making sweeping changes.
The online retro board template consists of four columns, dedicated to actions the team needs to understand to keep their process streamlined and healthy:
Running DAKI retros allows us to look at our work from a perspective similar to managing inventory. Therefore, the topics we discuss must be focused on cleaning up our process and replenishing our ideas for improvement.
The team populates the Drop category with everything that had a negative impact on our sprint. Once suggestions have been added for cleaning up the process by dropping negative practices, the team proceeds to replenish the process with fresh ideas for improvement in the Add category.
In the Keep area, the team is encouraged to start thinking about the positive practices they’ve established and want to be more consistent about in the upcoming sprint/s.
Improve creates focus on the activities that are already bringing some value to the team, but could benefit us even greater with some tinkering.
Learn how to run effective DAKI retros from our dedicated guide on the topic and start making small changes with a big impact in your process.
Keeping everybody engaged is vital for running effective retrospective meetings both in-person and remotely.
For the distributed context, the online retro board template we choose to apply has a major role in whether a retrospective meeting succeeds or fails in being a good use of time for the team.
To make the most of your next retrospective meeting, consider the state of your team and which format would incite the best ideas from your team members at this stage of their life cycle as a team as well as at this stage of the life cycle of the project they’re collaborating on.
As the majority of us are still working remotely, it’s imperative that we find a retro tool that enables us to run seamless online retrospectives.
If you still haven’t found one, we invite you to test out ScatterSpoke free of charge.
What can you actually do to make effective retro a reality? The good news is, it’s not as difficult as you might think. We’ve broken it down into 5 elements to make it as easy as possible to massively improve your sprint retrospectives.
Most engineering managers instinctively think of productivity as complex processes like workflows, solutions, and deliverables expressed in purely quantitative terms. The result is a dynamic that’s usually counterproductive. But there is another way.
Often that dynamic plays out in metrics and misguided attempts at fostering engineer productivity, usually by measuring the wrong things and offering the wrong incentives. Fortunately, there are better ways to use metrics to genuinely empower engineers to accomplish more.