Christmas Retrospective

Ruth Hadari
Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert
Posted on
Sep 30, 2022
Updated on
Mar 26, 2023
Table of Content

What Is the Christmas retrospective?

The Christmas retrospective activity is a retrospective template based on the traditional story of ‘A Christmas Carol’, but repurposed for Agile software development teams. 

The Christmas retrospective template is an activity intended to be performed for projects of long duration, maybe even to be done after multiple projects. The idea is that the activity will show if any patterns emerge from doing multiple projects that would not be evident after tracking projects individually.

This template gives Scrum masters the ability to:

  1. Look back on the previous Sprint, and give a verdict on how it went.
  2. Have a moment to show appreciation and be thankful to other Scrum Team members
  3. Think about what the team will need in the future to succeed.

How to run the Christmas retrospective

The Christmas retrospective is split into three columns:

  1. Christmas Past: What took place during the last x periods of time? These are good and bad things alike - anything notable is accepted.
  2. Christmas Present: Who are you thankful for during the time period? Why are you thankful for them (be specific! Try using kudos postcards)
  3. Christmas Future: What is the future looking like for the time? What should be known about the direction that the team is going in? Do they need to watch out for anything?

After the team has spent time gathering thoughts and ideas into the three columns, they will vote on which ideas are most important and create action items for these points.

Pro Tip: During the Christmas Present section, it can be a nice idea to use real gifts to go along with the notes of appreciation. The presents can be small or even experiences, for example “Good for one cup of coffee,” but even these will increase the satisfaction and sentiment of those in the meeting.

When should the Christmas retrospective be used?

The best time to run a Christmas retrospective is after a series of projects where the team has remained as unchanged as possible. This is so they can all give feedback that is accurate to each other's performance. 

However, it is logical to run the Christmas retrospective over the end of year/Christmas period. This is because (obviously) the template is topical, and can therefore appeal to the teams sense of holiday cheer and celebration which can transform the atmosphere of the meeting, turning it from a chore into something the team feels motivated to complete. 

The end of year is also a good time to use the Christmas retrospective as it’s an appropriate time to reflect on the whole year as a whole. Because the Christmas retrospective is not limited to a set time frame, it can be a great tool to look back over all of the projects that took place during the past calendar year. Looking back over large time scales such as yearly reviews is a healthy procedure for any team, because it can communicate large patterns and can reaffirm that the team is aligned on not only the small details, but big picture things as well.

What are the benefits of the Christmas retrospective?

The main benefit to the Christmas retrospective is its fun approach to retrospective activities. Just the name itself creates a mystique of happiness and joy, which can make it a great tool for a team in need of a pick-me-up in terms of retrospectives. It’s also a great way to approach end of year reviews, which can often be long, tedious and boring for team members who don’t usually get involved.

About the author

Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert

Highly experienced in leading multi-organizational teams, groups, in-shore as well as off-shore. The go-to person who is able to simplify the complex. An agile advocate, experienced in all common methodologies. Responsible for the entire software development lifecycle process from development, QA, DevOps, Automation to delivery including overall planning, direction, coordination, execution, implementation, control and completion. Drives execution, and communicates on status, risks, metrics, risk-mitigation and processes across R&D.

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