Hot Air Balloon Retrospective

Nevo Alva
Nevo Alva
CEO, Acumen
Posted on
Dec 14, 2022
Updated on
Apr 13, 2023
Table of Content

What is a Hot Air Balloon retrospective?

The Hot Air Balloon is a combined retrospective and ‘futurespective’ that you can use with your team to combine assessing past activities with looking forward to the future. This retrospective template is a fun and effective way to help teams reflect on the progress of their project or Sprint. It follows two simple prompts: one for looking back, and one for looking forward. This method encourages team members to envision themselves in a hot air balloon, surrounded by beautiful views and clear skies. 

As they discuss the successes and challenges they have faced during the project, they can imagine going higher with more heat from the flame, or loading up sandbags to come down to earth. This creative exercise allows teams to gain insight into what works well and what needs improvement by taking an objective look at their journey so far, through the eyes of a traveler in a hot air balloon. By reflecting on the past and planning for the future, teams will come away with valuable lessons learned to apply to their current project or Sprint

Ultimately, Hot Air Balloon retrospectives are a great way for teams to foster collaboration and build trust among members as they work together towards successful outcomes. By engaging in meaningful reflection and discussion, teams can identify areas of strength and weaknesses, allowing them to course-correct if necessary and move forward with clarity. So why not take a ride in your own hot air balloon today? The journey may surprise you!

What are the Hot Air Balloon retrospective prompts?

Have your team take flight with retrospecting and reflect on the journey you have taken together. Hot Air Balloon retrospective prompts are the perfect way to help lift your team's spirits and open up the discussion. 

💨 What helps us go higher (hot air)? 

When it comes to taking a retrospective look at your team's success, what helps you go higher? Hot air balloons, of course! Just like in a hot air balloon, the key is to find the right forces that push and pull your team forward. This prompt attempts to figure out which processes or practices helped your team succeed. Whether it’s an effective meeting process or the encouragement of individual contributions, the goal is to identify what makes it easier for the team to reach their goals—and then give it an extra boost of hot air!

How did you get closer to your goals, or what made it easier for you to reach them? What are the things that push the team forward?

‍🪨 What holds us back (sandbags)?

Have you ever felt like you were trying to fly a hot air balloon with sandbags tied to it? You might be familiar with the feeling of being weighed down by your retrospective's sandbags. These are those pesky forces that seem to pull us back and impede our progress: bureaucracy, red tape, outdated practices, or even internal politics. 

We'd all love to be free of the sandbags and soar towards our goals, but how do we identify them? Sprint retrospectives are great opportunities to reveal the sandbags that hold us back. By asking questions like "Which processes slow you down?" or "What is demoralizing team members?" or "Why was a certain practice used?" you can start to uncover the sandbags that are preventing your team from reaching its full potential. 

When is the best time to run a Hot Air Balloon retrospective

The Hot Air Balloon retrospective is a creative and effective way for Scrum teams to look both backwards and forwards. It's ideal for retrospectives that are held at pivotal moments, like the end of the year, when you need to take a birds-eye view on your work. 

This retrospective template encourages your team to reflect on past achievements and plan for future success by assessing what has worked, and brainstorming ways to apply these learnings moving forward. By taking advantage of this creative method, your team can embrace some lighthearted optimism as it looks ahead together. 

You can use this template when you need to look forward. Analyze what's worked for your team, as well as the ways you can apply what you've learned in the future. The template is also useful when your team wants to embrace some jolly optimism. Lastly, you should try it when you want to take a birds-eye view of your work and reflect on past achievements and future goals.

Final Thoughts

It's time to get your Hot Air Balloon retrospective up in the air! This can be a great way to help your team reflect on what worked and didn't work over the last Sprint, year, or any other period of time. And don't forget—this is meant to be fun! So let your team's imagination soar and see what amazing solutions they can come up with. Who knows? You might even discover something new about your team in the process! Good luck! 🎈😊

We should add:
length (75-90 minutes according to metroretro)
How to run it?
Mention the fact that this is the only retrospective format with only 2 columns
Mention similar templates
Add a relevant image

About the author

Nevo Alva
CEO, Acumen

I’m an agile enthusiast, a strong believer in people, experimentation and continuous learning and improvement. Strong entrepreneurial background, currently co-founder and CEO of Acumen (creator of GoRetro), prior to Acumen I was the co-founder and CEO of Visualead (acquired by Alibaba Group). I served for 8 years in the IAF, known for its best retrospective and debriefing process in the world. Did my MBA in management of technology, entrepreneurship and innovation, in Tel Aviv university‍

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