The Constellation Retrospective

Alex Vernik
Alex Vernik
Engineering Ops Specialist
Posted on
Oct 25, 2021
Updated on
Oct 22, 2022
Table of Content

The Constellation Retrospective is another 5-star group exercise, just like we shared in two of our different blog posts about the best sprint retro ideas and games! If you’ve tried any of those other ideas you already know that this one is going to be out of this world! 

What Is the Constellation Retrospective Format? 

The Constellation Retrospective game calls for physical movement and representation of sentiments as opposed to more verbally-focused retrospective styles. 

Getting people up and moving can encourage more attentiveness and participation. Plus, using one's body to state an opinion is often regarded as easier than having to verbalize it, so it leaves room for more transparency and ease. 

Using an object as "the center of the universe", team members will move towards or away from the object in either agreement or disagreement with the sentiment or question posed. The team will, in a sense, become the radar graph (think the Spider Web Retrospective format) displaying where each team member stands on the particular topics discussed during that retro. 

Why Is the Constellation Retrospective Strategy Important?

The Constellation Retrospective exercise  is a great way to map the opinions of a group for all to see. Team members can see who they align most with and build bonds, while also really seeing so many other perspectives. Intermittent discussions of each topic and the variety of placements team members find themselves in will continue to provide enlightenment on each question.

This method is wonderful if the team contains introverts, or typically uninvested or non-participating members, because it encourages everyone to partake without being as intimidating as other sprint retrospective ideas. Using an eyes-closed voting method can also remove a lot of the pressure related to following the majority opinion. 

This Retrospective technique does a great job to visually present systemic issues within a specific sprint, while also providing large scale feedback in tandem. 

When to use the Constellation Retrospective?

This retrospective format is best used in between iterations when the memory of the process of the last iteration is still very fresh. But, it should also ideally be used soon enough before the next iteration so that feedback and goals will be properly applied.

Each team member who was involved in the last iteration must be present in order to get the full scope of feedback and a proper representation of perspectives. Anyone involved in the coming iterations should also be present so they can become aligned with the team’s new goals and directions. Other relevant members of your organization, like investors and business partners, can join the retrospective as well. 

This technique may be applied to other group needs outside of Iteration reflections, to see where the group stands on certain issues, making it an invaluable tool. 

How to Generally Apply This Agile Format

The Constellation Retrospective requires a fair bit of space (pun intended), so it's suggested to clear a room and place an object at the center ("the center of the universe").  

  1. Form a Circle– The team will place an object at the center of the room and form a circle around it, leaving space to move in towards, or out away from the center. 
  2. Group Leader Poses a Question– The team lead will either pose a question to the group, or make a statement. If a team member agrees enthusiastically with the statement or question, they move up very close to the object in the center of the room. If they wholeheartedly disagree, they back up very far, creating a scatter plot of the team’s views on the subject. 
  3. Debrief– At this point, a quick 5-minute debriefing should take place. The team will address any polarizing views, as well as any uncertain or neutral perspectives. Sprint retro questions like "how can this be improved?" and "what would it take to move you towards the center?" are especially useful prompts.
  4. Repeat– Members return to neutral positions and take a second to reset before the group leader makes the next statement. The team will continue to align themselves and discuss again for a period of about an hour. 

Another common way to conduct this retrospective is to create a linear layout on the ground, with the room divided into 5 columns (5 parallel lines marked with tape). The third/middle line is the neutral starting place where everyone stands, and they either jump a line or two to the left or right depending on if they agree/strongly agree, or disagree/strongly disagree. 

This is still a great retrospective, but slightly less rewarding than the true Constellation Retrospective because players aren't in an inward-facing formation (like a circle) to really see each other. 

Interactive game-play is a great way to motivate team members and to visualize in which areas people are on the same page and which they are not. The Constellation Retrospective format is great for any personality type and is simple to understand and implement within a large enough space. 

Image from

Blast Off with GoRetro’s Free Retrospective Tool

Quieter members of your tam are definitely going to enjoy the Constellation Retrospective, as they will many of the other virtual Retrospective formats on platforms like GoRetro. Sometimes moving around or typing in order to convey an opinion is much easier than saying it out loud in a room full of people. 

GoRetro is a free retrospective tool that invites the whole team to a variety of visual retrospective template landscapes to carry out and organize meetings. It allows for discussion, privacy, voting, and permanent recording for future reference and is invaluable to your retrospective team

About the author

Alex Vernik
Engineering Ops Specialist

Engineering leader, passionate about coding products and value creation. Vast experience with managing R&D teams at various scales. Embracing innovation and transformation for constant improvement.

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