The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Retrospective

Actionable retrospective ideas that you can launch today.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly retrospective template boosts conversations about team improvements with a cinematic touch. It’s an easy exercise to shake up your usual meeting routine. This exercise is based on the infamous Western movie The Good, the Bad and the Ugly that came out in the 60s and stars Clint Eastwood. Its name has become a common trope and, in our case, indicates that the focus of the retro will be split equally between highlighting the good, getting rid of the bad and turning the ugly into something beautiful. It helps get everyone in the right frame of mind while keeping the mood fun and playful.

Getting Started with The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Retrospective

This template helps team members share feedback about what went well in the last sprint (the good), what didn't go as planned (the bad), and the things that the team couldn't change but wants to call out (the ugly). A fun and popular way to start this retrospective is by playing the movie trailer of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). This will establish the theme and lift everyone's spirits because, even though this retro format is fun, it can also be difficult.

Why? Because 2 out of the 3 topics ask team members to dig deeper on the negative aspects.

Step 1

The activity begins with the Scrum Master drawing a simple graph on the board/ canvas. It has to be split into three areas. The top left part is called The Good, on the right you have The Bad, and at the bottom – The Ugly. When everyone recognizes what each of the areas represent, continue with the next part of the activity.

Step 2 

Each participant receives a stack of sticky notes and a pen. They should write their ideas by using one post-it per idea and add them to the board in the corresponding area. Ask your team members to address each of the three areas by considering the following questions:   

  • The Good – What went well during the last sprint? What we should repeat? What activities we want to do more of?
  • The Bad – Which are the things that should have never happened during the last sprint? What was more harmful for the team and project than beneficial? What activities would we like to get rid of in the future? 
  • The Ugly – Which things did not go as well as expected? What could fix and improve next time? What could be done better? 

Give participants 10 minutes to come up with their ideas and ask them to place their notes on the board. 

Step 3

Take a look at what you have on the board and group the similar ideas into clusters with one collective name that defines the cluster succinctly. Vote on which themes you would like to discuss and focus on 3-4 of the main topics that come up. More items could diverge focus and take longer than the designated time. Picking a few groups will allow you to focus on the priorities and improve incrementally. 

Step 4

Once the discussion generates a few steps forward and you have outlined the means of action, turn the suggestions into process improvements and individual tasks with owners in your next sprint!

Benefits of Using The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Retro Template

This activity is more simple than other retro formats and is suitable for teams that don’t have much experience in retrospectives, as well as seasoned Agile teams that want a quick, easy, and effective way to reflect on their last sprint. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Retrospective will help your team focus on what could be done better, or differently, while at the same time identifying waste and value-generating activities. 

It’s a great exercise for remote teams as well, as you can use a retrospective tool, a virtual board, or a screenshare with a distributed team. Just remember to turn the sound on when you play the movie trailer through a virtual meeting, so that you don’t lose the desired effect!