A Guide to the Good, Bad, and Ugly Retrospective Format

Ruth Hadari
Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert
Posted on
Jan 3, 2022
Updated on
May 23, 2022
Table of Content

In a world of creative designers and artists, how is using the same old retrospective ideas going to help you come up with any new and innovative ideas? Have you ever had a really bad dream where you keep repeating the same mistake? It can be nerve-wracking if that dream becomes your team’s reality. 

If you feel that your team is making the same mistakes repeatedly, don’t worry– there is a tool that you can leverage to break this cycle. This exercise, called the Good Bad Ugly Retrospective, is based on the infamous 1966 Western movie of the same name, directed by Sergio Leone, with soundtrack composed by Ennio Morricone, and starring Clint Eastwood (The Good), Lee Van Cleef (The Bad), and Eli Wallach (The Ugly), respectively. 

The Good Bad Ugly Retrospective Format is a powerful tool, and provides teams a valuable opportunity to highlight opportunities for change and generate meaningful improvements to their processes and workflows. It asks teams to ask themselves what was good about the prior iteration, what was bad, and what was ugly. Keep reading below to find out more about how to run this retrospective, and how GoRetro can help your team optimize performance with every one of their retrospective meetings! 

What is the Good Bad Ugly Retrospective?

You probably already know that retrospective meetings are the ideal place to determine, as a team, where issues exist in your development process. This is because these meetings are specifically tailored to help build and foster team chemistry. With this in mind, the Good Bad Ugly Retrospective becomes even more important and useful, as it is commonly implemented as a way to force team members to exchange uncomfortable information with one another. 

In this retrospective, the Good is what worked or went well. The Bad is what did not go as you planned it. It also represents problems and issues that surfaced during the process. The Ugly, which differentiates the Good Bad Ugly Retro format from other retro formats, are things that your project team couldn’t change, but should still call out, talk about and address. 

The main goal here is to help your team members reflect more effectively in their independent time outside of the meeting, so that once everyone arrives in the retrospective, the meeting is as streamlined and productive as could be. Also, note that it is crucial to put action items in place at the end of the meeting that will enhance the good, and in tandem, reject the bad. At the end of this retrospective, your team should have a number of ideas about how to improve software development across the board

When can the Good Bad Ugly Retrospective be used?

You can use the Good Bad Ugly Retro Format in many cases. The Good Bad Ugly Retrospective has become a common trope. Also, in many cases, it indicates that the focus of the retro should be split equally between getting rid of the bad and highlighting the good. It is also important to turn the ugly into something beautiful.

You can use the Good Bad Ugly Retrospective Template as a tool for reflection and improvement. You can use it if your team feels that it is not delivering up to its potential. Plus, if you notice some room for improvement while collaborating with other teams, you may even consider doing a cross-team retrospective to discuss gaps and identify solutions. Also, note that this is an excellent exercise for remote teams as well.

Who is the Good Bad Ugly Retrospective for?

The Good Bad Ugly Retrospective is for anyone who was present during the previous sprint, and who finds themselves invested in the successes of the future and the goals of the team. 

It's specifically best suited for analytical individuals who are able to deep dive into the particulars of a current sprint, while still applying realistic timelines and processes to these goals they manufacture. 

Every member of the scrum team needs to be present for this retrospective for it to be productive, since all members carry their own useful perspectives and experiences. Everyone's feedback on the items that have and haven’t been working will be essential contributions to the plan moving forward.

Other relevant voices to include may be the Scrum Master, your clients, and your business partners.

What makes the Good Bad Ugly Effective?

Did you know that in-depth introspection is important as it promotes continuous improvement and enhances productivity? Following the Good Bad Ugly Retrospective Template helps achieve these goals while facilitating and supporting integrated teamwork. 

You will be happy to know that this activity is simpler than other retrospective formats. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Retrospective is also suitable for teams that do not have much experience in retrospectives. It also can be used by seasoned Agile teams looking for a quick, effective, and easy way to reflect on their last sprint

How to Execute the Good Bad Ugly Retrospective?

To run the Good Bad Ugly retro, you need one leader and sufficient post-it notes and pens for everyone involved.  If the team is doing a physical retrospective, the leader should take 3 post-it notes and create 3 separate columns. If it is a virtual or online retrospective, an interactive retrospective tool like GoRetro will be able to create this retrospective template online for the team. 

Good

These are things that went well, i.e., aspects or areas where your team met or even exceeded expectations. It is worth noting that the goal here is to appreciate what went exceptionally well. You can use post-its to praise team members and processes, which made the project a success. Some examples could be:

  • Amanda taught me how to write important JavaScript functions
  • I think that we are finally working well and cooperating as a team!

Bad

These are things that did not work well or go as planned, i.e., areas where your team did not meet expectations. You should also highlight anything that made you upset or sad over the duration of the project. Some examples:

  • Marketing hindered our work this month, and that annoyed me
  • I am not sure of what our priorities are

Ugly

The Ugly is what really makes this retrospective stand out. There are things your team could not change. The goal is to say controversial things deliberately. However, if you will criticize people, make sure it is constructive.  Some examples:

  • John is doing a different job to the one he thinks he is.

Final Thoughts

Good Bad Ugly Retrospectives provide the ideal platform for your team to come together and exchange ideas, and share feedback for process improvement. These simplistic, but analytical retrospectives provide teams an opportunity for introspection, while still prioritizing organizational progress. 

GoRetro is the perfect online interactive retrospective tool to assist your team in completing these types of meetings. GoRetro has always and will always be free, and provides you with unlimited access to team invites, retrospective boards, templates and all the other tools you’ll need to optimize your team’s success! Additionally, you can find more agile retrospective ideas in our blog post.

Give GoRetro a try for free, today! 

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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