Retrospective Visualizations for Effective Team Reflection

team retrospective visualization featured image

During the retrospective meetings, teams estimate the project’s progress and reflect on the previous period. This allows them to determine the future direction of their project and work. Visualizations in the retrospective are a powerful tool for reflection and improvement of the project.

Visualizing Retrospectives

Visual aids can enhance understanding and engagement during retrospectives. Teams can use visualizations to improve the meeting’s flow and create a lasting impact.

If you want to have a memorable retrospective meeting but also an option to revisit insights and get a complete overview of the meeting with a glance, use visualization tools in retrospective meetings.

Popular Retrospective Visualization Techniques

Popular visualization techniques for retrospectives allow the team to follow a particular format, engaging more in the conversation. The retrospective techniques usually focus on both positive and negative aspects of workflow, allowing the team to figure out solutions that will benefit them in the future. It’s also the right moment to appreciate each team member and praise good team practices.

The team could use many techniques, or they could devise their own. Here’s a quick recap of the popular retrospective visualization techniques: Mad, Sad, Glad Table, The House of Bricks, Sticks, Straw, The Four Ls, The Start, Stop, Continue, and Sailboat.

Mad, Sad, Glad Table

Divide the board into three columns or sections. Label each column with one of the three labels: mad, sad, and glad. The team has notes on which they can write which aspect of their work during the last sprint made them mad, sad, and glad.

The table is based on the feelings each member experienced during the period viewed in the retrospective. Discuss their notes with the team and ask them for suggestions to improve the production process. This is a great conversation starter for determining what should be changed and in which direction the team should continue their work.

The House of Bricks, Sticks, and Straw

This retrospective visualization uses the story of the three little pigs as a foundation for starting the discussion. You probably remember the story of the three little pigs building their homes from straw, sticks, and bricks.

The project manager or Scrum Master sets the scene by dividing the board into three sections, one for each house. Draw one of the houses for each section to make the retrospective more visually appealing.

  • The house of bricks column represents aspects of work that the team believes to be solid.
  • The house of sticks represents the aspects of work that are okay but could use some improvement.
  • Lastly, the house of straw represents the aspects of work that are barely holding up.

Ask your team to provide a note for these sections and place it under each house. After the team has finished adding the notes to the board, use them to open the discussion and review all these aspects.

Encourage the team to share suggestions and ideas on improving each aspect.

Discuss the parts of the work the team believes are solid as examples of good practice.

This retrospective format lets your team focus on the work they have done. Without pointing fingers at each other, they can discuss the good and bad sides of the work processes.

The Four Ls

This method divides the board into four sections: Liked, Learned, Lacked, and Longed for. As with the previous retrospective methods, the team is given notes on which they can write the aspects of the previous sprint and place them in the corresponding categories.

  • In the Liked and Learned categories, the team places the positive aspects of work, the parts of the process that they liked and benefited from, and what they learned.
  • In the Lacked and Longed for sections, the team can express the negative parts of the production process, what they lacked, and what they wish they had been more successful at.

This method is excellent for teams to examine both their project's positive and negative sides, identify them, and learn from the previous sprint. Teams can use this format as the basis for further discussion that will lead to a breakthrough on how the production process can be improved for the future.

The four Ls method gives a deeper insight into team dynamics, identifying the parts of the process that could be improved.

Start, Stop, Continue

The Start, Stop, Continue method is simple, providing the team with amazing results.

The board is divided into three sections:

  • Start - where the team puts notes on what they think they should start doing,
  • Stop - what they should stop doing
  • Continue - the good practices they believe should be continued.

The Start, Stop, Continue method directly impacts future strategies, pushing the team in the right direction. It also helps the team remove obsolete practices that weigh them down and hinder progress.


The sailboat visual method uses the rich analogy of a sailboat’s journey to let the team express their thoughts and opinions on the last sprint to improve the overall production process.

The Team Lead, or Scrum Master, sets the scene by presenting the team with the image of a sailboat, representing the team’s journey.

  • The sailboat is trying to reach the island, representing the sprint goal.
  • It faces dangerous rocks ahead, representing the aspects of the project that the team thinks might be challenging.
  • The sailboat is also weighed down by an anchor, where the team can share what is slowing them down and preventing them from making progress and reaching the goal.
  • The sunshine above the island represents aspects that made the team feel good while working on the project or product during the last sprint.
  • Not to forget, there is also the wind in the back of the sails, the aspects of the project pushing the team towards the sprint goal.

This picturesque retrospective method allows the team to share their concerns, identify bad aspects slowing the progress, and emphasize the good aspects of working on a project. The sailboat method will provide a memorable retrospective meeting for your team. It’s an easy-to-use, comprehensive method that allows the team to make clear decisions for the next sprint.

Tools for Retrospective Visualizations

The tools used for retrospective visualizations will differ depending on whether your team shares office space or is meeting in the online virtual space.

Teams in the same office for the retrospective can use sticky notes and whiteboards or corkboards.

When planning for the retrospective meeting in the office setting, the Scrum Master or Project Manager needs to prepare all the materials they will use beforehand and give the team enough time and space to write their answers before the team puts them all up on the board.

If the board is reused for other purposes, essential data, ideas, and information from the meeting might be lost. To prevent this, the Project Manager or Scrum Master could take a photo of the board, share it with the team, and keep it for future reference.

Teams that are working remotely can use digital tools for retrospective meetings. Some tools that can be used are Miro, Mural, Google Jamboard, or other alternative tools the team chooses.

Using digital tools allows the team to participate in the retrospective no matter where they are simultaneously and share their thoughts. Pair these tools with tools for digital meetings, such as Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet, to start a discussion and share all the important info. After the retrospective, capture a screenshot and share it with the team for future reference, or save the board to prevent losing ideas shared in this process.

Customizing Retrospective Visualizations

The best retrospectives allow the team to participate and spark discussions. Scrum Masters and Project Managers should encourage their team to devise unique methods tailored to the team’s dynamics.

When the team uses their experience to create a customized retrospective visualization, it will bring them closer together. Therefore, it has the additional benefit of allowing the team to bond.

The visual aids allow the team to grasp the complex team dynamic and understand each member better. As the team participates in customizing their own retrospective visualizations, they also learn a lot about each other, uncovering their strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations.

The Essence of Retrospectives

The retrospective meetings give the team all the tools to lock back on what they have achieved and ideas for moving forward effectively. Looking back on each sprint allows the team to adapt the strategy, change processes on the go, and not let too much time pass before they address an issue.

Each retrospective meeting has the dual role of celebrating achievements and identifying areas for improvement. In retrospectives, teams should exchange ideas and focus on the positives, whether by introducing changes to bad practices or celebrating success.

Even though retrospectives have almost universal applicability, their role in Agile is most prominent. Agile teams make progress in sprints, and a sprint retrospective is an Agile event that allows the team to stay adaptable. Retrospectives help the teams to reflect on the work process, exchanging ideas and making it more efficient.

Retrospective Methods

The retrospective meetings have five phases: setting the stage, gathering data, generating insights, decision-making, and closing. In the first phase, setting the stage, the Scrum Master, Project Manager, or Team lead has an important assignment to set the stage for the team and explain how they can participate.

The Team Lead engages everyone in the meeting, encouraging them to participate actively. The team then moves on to gathering data. The data gathered will be sorted accordingly in the format used for the retrospective. In generating insights, the team exchanges their points of view and discusses further to determine the root cause of the issues. Collectively, they make informed decisions based on insights from the following decision-making stage.

Finally, the retrospective goes through the closing phase. Once the ideas for improvement and solutions are clear to everyone, the retrospective is closed with a round of appreciation for everyone. During this phase, the team might also share their impression of the retrospective meeting. Perhaps the team believes the meeting was a success, or they have ideas to share to improve the next retrospective.

Power of retrospective visualizations in Team reflections

Retrospective meetings allow the team to reflect on their work, exchange thoughts and experiences, and make breakthroughs. Visualizations will help the team engage more in the retrospective and make it more memorable. Whenever the team needs to reflect on the retrospective, they can view the retrospective visualization. Visual representation is easier to follow and understand.

If you haven't used visualizations before, try incorporating these techniques into the team’s routine and witness the transformation in their reflection sessions. Not only will it be easier for the team to participate and look back on the sprint, but using visualizations will help make those retrospective meetings memorable and exciting for the team.

Visualizations spark the team’s interest in sharing their journey instead of just taking turns discussing a set list of topics in another boring meeting.

Don’t let your retrospective meetings become boring discussion meetings your team cannot wait to end. Instead, use visualizations to make them fun and exciting. The team will eagerly await the next retrospective to share their thoughts!