retrospective topics

The most effective retrospective topics of all time

If you want to continuously improve with your team, then retrospectives are one of the best proven tools for this purpose.

A retrospective is a regular meeting in which you reflect on what has happened in the past few weeks in order to derive what you can do better in the future. If the retrospective is held regularly, the small improvements will accumulate over time into major progress for the entire team.

A regular retrospective also makes it possible to uncover problems before they become so large that they can cause noticeable damage.

True to the motto: prevention is better than cure.

However, in order to recognize problems at an early stage and identify the best levers for improvement in the team, you have to address the right topics in the retro with the right questions.

That's why I'm giving you an overview of the most popular and effective retrospective topics in this article:

Most effective retrospective topics

What characterizes really good retrospective topics?

Before we look at 6 specific topics of the most effective retrospectives, I would like to go into more detail about what makes a retro really effective. To avoid overdoing it unnecessarily, I'll give you a brief overview in the form of key points and link you to the relevant articles where you can go into the points in more depth if required:

The 6 most effective retrospective topics:

You may have heard of the "What went well" retrospective or the "Start, Stop, Continue" retrospective. They are among the most widespread retrospectives, but essentially always ask the same 3 questions:

  • What went well?
  • What didn't go so well?
  • What can be improved?

And even if these three basic questions represent the 1×1 of retrospectives, they quickly become hackneyed. 

I have personally found that a new packaging (i.e. Happy/Sad instead of Good/Bad) brings some variation to the retrospective, but does not solve the actual problem of retrospective exhaustion.
Because essentially the same questions are still being asked and this does not lead to new ideas for participants in a retrospective. 

That's exactly why I want to present 6 retrospectives here that really bring a new perspective into play. If you are still interested in classic retrospectives, you can take a look at this article: 26 Refreshing Agile Retrospective Templates

6 Retrospective topics

Topic #1 - Agile Delivery Retrospective

One of the biggest current trends in the agile working world is the topic of "Agile Delivery". And that's exactly why we have created this retrospective. If you want to find out more about this trend topic, take a look at this article: Increase your agility in 2024

Health-Check questions:

These questions are answered on a scale (1-5):

We get things done really fast. No waiting, no delays.

We are able to estimate exactly what we can deliver in a given cycle and with the given resources.

Our sprint results do not require any post sprint rework to be delivered.

We limit our 'work in progress' to be focused at all times.

Open feedback questions:

When did your ways of working create a suboptimal flow of work (e.g., policies are unclear, not suitable or not adhered to)?

When has our way of working worked well?

What are recent examples for an increment that wasn't working / shippable at the end of the cycle?

6 Retrospective topics

Topic #2 - Team Commitments Retrospective

What is a team that doesn't pull together with full force? Check the priorities and commitment in your team:

Health-Check questions:

These questions are answered on a scale (1-5):

As a team, we share a common understanding of what "good work" is.

Open feedback questions:

Handling of contradictory priorities: ‘When I encounter contradictory priorities, I …’

Communication of blockers: ‘When I am stuck on a task, I announce this by …’

Navigation of conflicts: ‘When I notice a conflict start to build up in our team, I …’

working agreement sample template tool

6 Retrospective topics

Topic #3 - Psychological safety Retro

As mentioned earlier, psychological safety is one of the foundations for good retrospectives and low-conflict collaboration in general. See where you stand on this topic:

Health-Check questions:

These questions are answered on a scale (1-5):

I regularly receive useful feedback on how good my performance is and how I can improve.

If a team member makes a mistake, they are not judged for it.

You're allowed to not know things in our team.

In conflicts, we talk on a factual level, so that no one feels personally attacked or judged.

Open feedback questions:

What else do we want to talk about?

6 Retrospective topics

Topic #4 - Battery Retrospective

Everyone has a bad day or two. But when it becomes a trend to have no energy in the team, you leave a lot of potential on the street. Find out why the energy level is low and how to increase it:

Open feedback questions:

How full is your personal battery as a percentage right now?

What has drained your battery recently?

What has recharged your battery recently?

What would help you to save energy over the next few weeks?

6 Retrospective topics

Topic #5 - Future perspective (Future Retrospective)

A retrospective does not always have to be about the past. Looking to the future can also be an eye-opener:

Open feedback questions:

What is the most important milestone you would like to see us achieve as a team in the next week(s)?

Which hurdle should we focus on overcoming in the coming weeks?

What would you be particularly grateful for in the coming week(s)?

6 Retrospective topics

Topic #6 - Bottleneck retrospective

If you accelerate but little happens, this is an indication of a bottleneck. Identify your bottlenecks quickly so that you can get the horsepower back on the road:

Open feedback questions:

Our bottleneck: What is the critical part in our structures and processes that determines how much we can achieve as a team?

What options are there for eliminating this one bottleneck?

6 Retrospective topics

Conclusion - The most effective retrospective themes of all time

If you and your team want to continuously improve, retrospectives are an essential tool for this. However, it is important to note that the topics that a retrospective addresses also vary from time to time. Also make sure that these topics fit in with current events.

Is the energy level in the team low right now? → Battery retrospective

If you now want to prepare professional retrospectives in under 2 minutes and have a choice of over 50 retrospectives (constantly increasing), then try out the Echometer tool free of charge:

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