What Went Well - What Didn’t Go Well Sprint Retrospective

Ruth Hadari
Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert
Posted on
Aug 6, 2020
Updated on
Apr 13, 2023
Table of Content

The ‘what went well’ retrospective format is one of the easiest and most efficient methods for your agile team to complete their sprint retrospectives. This retro opens discussions on what went well during the previous sprint, as well as what didn’t go well (or as planned). Post discussion, team members decide upon specific action items to improve future engagement and sprint results. 

How to Run the 'What Went Well' retrospective, TL;DR

The ‘what went well’ retrospective is a very basic sprint retrospective format that your team can easily run.  

  1. Each dev team member is asked to reflect on what ideas, projects, and activities went well in the past sprint, and which did not go well. 
  2. After members write down their thoughts, each point is discussed and action items are created so the team (and each member) can set goals for the upcoming sprints.

What is the ‘What Went Well’ retrospective format?

This simplistic but effective sprint format is a method used at post-project meetings to reflect on past ventures and to plan for future ones. It consists of two segments, taking place in the following recommended order: 

What Didn't Go Well

Scrum/team members take a quantitative look at the past sprint and identify what aspects didn't work for them and essentially vote to put those methods/techniques into the toss pile. 

Members may have different feelings about the method/technique in question, making it a good time to investigate why it may or may not have empowered some members' processes. 

Bringing up the stressors first is often easier, as negative experiences tend to stick out more vividly than positive ones (unfortunately). Members can unpack their frustrations together. 

What Went Well

Leaving the meeting on a positive note is cathartic after heavy unloading. It leaves members in a motivated state of mind for the future venture. 

This portion of the meeting will cover the methods/techniques (etc) that did serve the team and its goals positively, landing them in a proverbial keep pile. Again, some members may not see eye-to-eye on a certain topic and all perspectives will prove useful through further discussion. 

When Can it Be Used?

This format, like most, should be used soon after a project comes to an end and before a new one begins. The feedback and associated feelings (frustration, pride, enthusiasm, etc) should still be fresh and vivid enough to discuss in detail.

A General Guideline for Conducting a ‘What Went Well’ retrospective

Efficient and focused meetings can take place physically or virtually on a user-friendly platform like GoRetro. In essence, members can write their negative/positive feedback on sticky notes or comment threads and discuss and vote on the opinions of the topic.

In the ‘what didn’t go well’, or 'constructive critique' portion, members should clearly state the issue (without a solution at first), and then open the floor to counter-arguments, followed by solutions (with actionable tasks/goals). Noticing common patterns among things that don't work can present clarity as well. 

In the ‘what went well’, or 'pleased' portion, members should give credit where it's due, uplift each other, and reflect on why certain things seem to work well. 

How to Run A What Went Well Retrospective In GoRetro 

With so many templates to choose from, GoRetro makes setting up a collaborative organizational platform so easy. 

Once logged in, members can be invited to partake in discussions, voting, suggestions, assigning, and presenting. 

Everything on the boards is customizable and easily sorted, and with clear goals discussed, actionable items can be assigned to members publicly or privately with due dates and details. All past discussions are fully accessible for future reference and retrospectives too!

what went well retro board by Goetro
What Went Well Retrospective Template

Who is this format for?

This format, like all other retrospective formats, is to be conducted with every single team member present. Every member holds a unique individual experience and feedback from their own perspective and the conversation must have the balance of everyone's voice. 

Other relevant feedback is also often welcome from customers/market results, partners, and team leaders/management. 

what went well retrospective infographic

Why Is this Retrospective Format Uniquely Important?

This format isn't overwhelming or complicated - it's very black and white. Sometimes that contrast is a great way to find patterns for what seems to work with this particular set of people and what doesn't. Methods can then be refined to improve in the future. 

This method is a great way to vent and fix frustrations, only to then end on a high note of all that went well and an acknowledgment of everyone's strengths to embrace in the future.

With such a unique dichotomous quality, having an online retrospective tool like GoRetro makes it really easy to organize the contrasting dualistic ideas into clear fixes, agreements, and tasks. 
Interested in other retrospective formats?

From "4Ls format" to "Starfish retrospective", "Sailboat retrospective" and more, GoRetro's offers a wide variety of retrospective templates.
Pick up the best template for your team or create your own retro board using our custom option.

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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