Hopes and Concerns Retrospective – A Quick Guide

Ruth Hadari
Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert
Posted on
Mar 30, 2022
Updated on
Jun 11, 2022
Table of Content

Learn your team’s hopes and concerns for a project and work on them together before starting a sprint or onboarding new teammates.

Working on a new project, running a workshop, or designing a sprint with your cross-functional team is both stressful and exciting. Undoubtedly, it’s worth every minute; after all, nothing beats getting everyone in the same room and working together to solve a problem. This is where the hopes and concerns retrospective comes in handy. 

What Is a “Hopes and Concerns Retrospective”?

Unquestionably, there is no faster way on earth to clear assumptions, allow debate on a variety of viewpoints, and boost empathy for the business processes than good old fashion face-to-face working sessions. 

At the same time, getting your time’s worth from a meeting depends on the idea and willingness of teammates to be open and collaborative. However, if there is even a slight nervousness or anxiety, it will reflect in the meeting. To combat this, the hopes and concerns retrospective is excellent. 

One of the best kick-off exercises is a hopes and concerns retrospective. In this fun activity, all team members are encouraged to share their hopes and wishes for the project. The hopes and concerns activity effectively gauges participants’ attitudes about a sprint or project. 

Hope reveals the team’s expectations from the project and clearly highlights what can be accomplished. Conversely, concerns reveal team members’ fears and doubts about working together. 

Main goal

To ascertain teammates’ fears and hopes regarding a project

When to use

Preferably at the start of the meeting, but can also be performed at the end

How long should it last 

On average, it should last 30 minutes, but it depends on the size of the group

Who should participate

Everyone in the room

Supplies

It can be performed verbally or with a whiteboard, markers, sharpies, post-it pads, or sticky notes

Why Is It Important / What Makes It Effective?

When everyone in the room shares their concerns, fears, doubts, questions, hopes, wishes, and worries about the project, one thing is for sure: everyone is on the same page.

It’s a good idea for these reasons:

  • Running a hopes and concerns retrospective at the beginning of the project allows people to feel less alone in their fears.
  • Allows addressing concerns.
  • Provides an understanding of how to tailor the rest of the meeting.
  • Lowers chances of disrupting.
  • Sets expectations at the start of the sprint.
  • Enhances team understanding, collaboration, and alignment.

How To Run a “Hopes and Concerns Retrospective”

Hopes and concerns are both emotive expressions that imply a degree of vulnerability. Framing it in this manner can help teammates open up more than usual. It’s uplifting to connect with team members over common aspirations and concerns.

To run an effective hopes and concerns retrospective, you need to:

  1. Invite the Right People

Hopes and concerns retrospectives depend on participants’ emotions and personal judgments. It is therefore vital to encourage all concerned parties to take part and share their valuable input.

  1. Set the Tone

For a hopes and concerns retrospective to be compelling, all participants must fully express their goals and fears. This is only possible when they feel psychologically safe, and the facilitator creates an open environment. 

Hence, when beginning with the hopes and concerns workshop, the facilitator must emphasize that all ideas are welcome to build a productive working environment.

  1. Encourage Journaling

Following the introduction, all team members will be asked to spend around 5 minutes listing their questions, worries, anticipations and wishes regarding the project or sprint.

  1. Inspire Participants to Open Up

Allow some time for the participant to express what they wrote down. It might be challenging for some to share their concerns in a group; remind them that this activity only sheds light on the problem areas and then instantly solves them.

  1. Group Together

Group together common recurring hopes as a vision to create a measurement basis against which sprint progress can be checked. Do the same for concerns and doubts and discuss ways to resolve them. 

  1. Set Actions

The final step requires all team members to work together to generate preventive solutions. Once it’s finalized, it’s time to get to the action. 

Fun Hopes and Concerns Retrospective Ideas

This activity is futurespective as participants share their feelings about something that is about to happen, or their expectations and aspirations for the future.

However, this exercise can get boring fast if you take too long or don’t ask interesting questions. It’s important to take a well-rounded approach to solve everyone’s concerns. Make sure to continue incorporating fun and innovative techniques in sprint retrospectives to make the most of them. Doing this will keep your team focused and driven towards success, build agile resources and gain new insights. 

Final Thoughts

Yes, specific approaches might work better than others and would make more sense to you. In a perfect world, every participant of the sprint could just agree, but that’s rarely the case in real life. So allow everyone to express their concerns and discuss their visions for a project, ensuring the success of your hopes and concerns retrospective. 

In a nutshell, the hopes and concerns retrospective effectively leverages participants’ learning, identifies issues, and offers a platform to discuss their hopes and dreams, ultimately playing an important role in team motivation towards completing the project.

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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