Retrospectives are a cornerstone of agile project management, offering invaluable insights into team dynamics and project progress.

However, beyond tasks and timelines, there’s an often-overlooked aspect that significantly impacts team performance: mood.

Understanding and managing the emotional climate of your team can be just as crucial as tracking deliverables.

That’s where mood-related retrospectives come in.

From mapping emotional journeys to assessing energy levels, these retrospectives offer innovative ways to gauge team sentiment, foster open communication, and build a more cohesive and supportive work environment.

But this article is not a basic listicle with just the description of the format! You get a step-by-step guide for each these 7 formats:

  1. Happiness Radar
  2. Happiness Radar (Timeline Version)
  3. Mad Glad Sad
  4. How Do You Feel?
  5. Energy Level
  6. Emotional Seismograph
  7. Mood Weather

The Happiness Radar Retrospective

It’s a visual and interactive way to understand how team members feel about various aspects of their work.

A basic one is to have these 3 areas: people, technology, and processes.

But you can ask about the team how they feel about a lot more things, here are some examples: is the atmosphere fun? How is the communication? Is your role clear? Do you have everything you need?

How to run happiness radar retrospectives in 6 steps

  1. Set the scene (5 min): Kick off by explaining the purpose of the Happiness Radar. Emphasize that it’s about understanding the team’s well-being, not just listing out problems.
  2. Draw the radar (5 min): Create a radar chart on a large whiteboard or a digital tool if you’re working remotely. Divide the radar into sections representing different aspects of the project or work environment, such as workload, communication, tools, etc…
  3. Individual reflection (10 min): Give each team member a few minutes to reflect on their happiness level for each aspect on the radar. They should rate their satisfaction on a scale (like 1-5 or 1-10), where higher numbers represent greater happiness.
  4. Plotting on the radar (10 min): One by one, team members come up and plot their ratings on the radar. This visual representation helps everyone see which areas are doing well and which need attention.
  5. Group discussion (20 min): Look for patterns and areas with lower scores. Encourage team members to share why they rated certain aspects lower and brainstorm solutions together.
  6. Action plan (10 min): Wrap up by deciding on actionable steps to improve areas of dissatisfaction. Assign responsibilities and set deadlines.

The Happiness Radar Retrospective: Timeline Version

Think of this format Radar as a time-travel tool for team emotions.

Instead of just a snapshot, you’re looking at how happiness levels have shifted over the course of a project or sprint.

This approach provides valuable insights into how certain phases or events impact team morale.

How to run timeline happiness radar retrospectives in 6 steps

  1. Introduction (5 min): Start by explaining the concept of the Timeline Happiness Radar. Make it clear that this is about understanding emotional trends over time, which can help in making future projects smoother and more enjoyable for everyone.
  2. Create the timeline (5 min): Draw a timeline on a large whiteboard or use a digital tool if you’re working remotely. The timeline should cover the duration of the project or sprint you’re reviewing.
  3. Individual reflection (10 min): Ask each team member to think back over the project timeline and note down their happiness levels at different stages. They could mark these on a scale (e.g., 1-5 or 1-10) at various points on the timeline.
  4. Marking the timeline (10 min): Each team member adds their happiness levels to the timeline. They can use different colors or markers for clarity. This step is crucial as it visually plots the emotional journey of the team throughout the project.
  5. Group discussion (20 min): Look for patterns, peaks, and troughs. Identify events or phases that correspond to significant changes in team happiness. This is a great opportunity for everyone to share their experiences and insights.
  6. Action plan (10 min): Conclude by agreeing on specific actions that will help maintain or improve happiness levels in future sprints or projects. Assign responsibilities and set realistic goals for implementation.

The Mad Sad Glad Retrospective

The “Mad Sad Glad” format is a simple yet effective approach for retrospectives.

It’s centered around categorizing feelings and experiences into three distinct emotions: Mad (frustrations or challenges), Sad (disappointments or missed opportunities), and Glad (successes or positive moments).

This method encourages open communication and emotional awareness within teams, making it easier to identify areas for improvement and celebrate successes.

How to run Mad Sad Glad retrospectives in 6 steps

  1. Set the stage (5 min): Explain the purpose and rules of the retrospective. Emphasize the importance of an open, respectful dialogue.
  2. Individual reflection (10 min): Each team member spends time independently jotting down their thoughts and feelings in the categories of Mad, Sad, and Glad.
  3. Sharing in rounds (2 min per participant): Go around the room, letting each team member share their points. Everyone gets a chance to speak without interruptions.
  4. Group discussion (15 min): Open the floor for group discussion. Here, the team explores common themes, patterns, and deeper insights from the sharing session.
  5. Identify action items (10 min): As a team, decide on the key takeaways and actionable steps. Assign responsibilities and set deadlines for these tasks.
  6. Closing remarks (5 min): Conclude the session on a positive note. Acknowledge the team’s contributions and reiterate any positive insights or actions to be taken moving forward.

The “How Do You Feel?” Retrospective

This retrospective format is a simple yet effective way to gauge the team’s emotional pulse at the end of a sprint.

It’s designed to uncover feelings and perceptions that might not surface in a standard retrospective.

How it works: It’s about asking the team to choose the emoticon that best describes the previous sprint/iteration/phase or retrospective and their feelings and emotions about it.

How to run “How do you feel?” retrospectives in 7 steps

  1. Setting the Stage (5 min): Begin by explaining the purpose and process of the retrospective. Ensure everyone understands that it’s a safe space for honest expression.
  2. Initial reflection (10 min): Distribute sticky notes and ask each team member to jot down how they felt about the last sprint. Encourage them to think broadly – about tasks, interactions, challenges, and achievements.
  3. Sharing emotions (15 min): Invite team members to stick their notes on a communal board. Let each person share their thoughts briefly – this is not about deep discussions but about putting feelings out there.
  4. Grouping similar feelings (10 min): As a group, categorize the emotions into similar clusters. This visual representation can quickly highlight the team’s overall mood and identify common themes.
  5. Discussion and insights (20 min): Discuss the clustered emotions. Focus on understanding why people felt a certain way and what might be driving these feelings. This is the heart of the retrospective, where insights are discovered.
  6. Action plan (15 min): Decide on actions to address the key issues raised. Assign responsibilities and set deadlines. This ensures that the retrospective leads to tangible improvements.
  7. Wrap-up (5 min): Conclude by summarizing the actions agreed upon and express appreciation for everyone’s openness and participation.

The Emotional Seismograph Retrospective

The “Emotional Seismograph” retrospective is a visual and interactive approach used to chart the emotional highs and lows experienced by team members throughout a sprint or project phase.

This format involves creating a timeline and mapping emotions against it, providing a clear picture of the team’s emotional journey.

It’s particularly useful in understanding how events or stages of the project impacted the team’s morale and motivation.

How to run “Emotional seismograph” retrospectives in 7 steps

  1. Introduction (5 min): Start by explaining the concept and purpose of the “Emotional Seismograph.” Clarify that it’s about tracking emotional changes over time, not just pinpointing moments of happiness or stress.
  2. Creating the timeline (5 min): Draw a long horizontal line on a whiteboard or large paper. Mark the beginning and end of the sprint or period being reviewed. Divide the timeline into equal segments representing days or key phases of the project.
  3. Individual teflection (10 min): Each team member plots their emotional journey along the timeline. They can mark high points, low points, and neutral periods, using different colors or symbols to represent various emotions.
  4. Sharing and mapping (20 min): Team members take turns to present their emotional seismographs. As they share, they plot their emotions on the communal timeline. This visual build-up helps everyone see the collective emotional journey.
  5. Identifying patterns and discussion (20 min): Analyze the group’s emotional seismograph. Look for patterns, common stress points, and moments of high morale. Discuss what events or factors contributed to these emotional shifts.
  6. Drawing insights and action plan (15 min): Focus on what can be learned from these emotional trends. Identify what went well and what could be improved. Agree on actions to enhance positive experiences and address negative ones.
  7. Conclusion (5 min): Summarize the key takeaways and agreed actions. Emphasize the importance of emotional awareness in team dynamics and project success.

The “Mood Weather” Retrospective

The “Mood Weather” retrospective format uses weather symbols as metaphors to represent team members’ emotions and feelings about the last sprint.

This creative and engaging approach makes it easier for team members to express their moods and experiences in a non-confrontational way.

By associating moods with weather patterns like sunny, cloudy, stormy, or windy, the team can get a clear picture of the overall emotional climate during the sprint.

How to run “Mood weather” retrospectives in 7 steps

  1. Introduction (5 min): Kick off by explaining the concept of the “Mood Weather” retrospective. Emphasize that this is a metaphorical and fun way to express feelings, which might make it easier for some to share.
  2. Mood weather preparation (10 min): Provide team members with paper, markers, and weather symbol templates (like sun, clouds, rain, thunderstorms, etc.). Ask them to pick symbols that best represent their feelings about the last sprint.
  3. Individual mood creation (10 min): Allow each team member time to create their “Mood Weather.” They can draw, color, or even collage to depict their emotional state or experiences during the sprint.
  4. Sharing mood weathers (20 min): One by one, team members present their weather symbols and explain why they chose them. This part should be more about expression and less about discussion.
  5. Group discussion (20 min): After everyone has shared, facilitate a discussion about the varied moods. Encourage the team to reflect on what might have caused these emotional climates and how these moods affected their work and interactions.
  6. Action planning (15 min): Based on the discussion, identify actions that could improve the team’s mood for the next sprint. Assign responsibilities and set achievable goals.
  7. Wrap-up (5 min): Conclude the retrospective by summarizing the actions and emphasizing the value of understanding and respecting each other’s emotional states in the team.

The “Energy Level” Retrospective

The “Energy Level” retrospective format is designed to assess and discuss the team’s energy levels throughout the last sprint or project phase.

This format helps in identifying periods of high energy and enthusiasm as well as times of low energy or burnout.

By understanding these fluctuations in energy, the team can better manage workloads, schedules, and strategies for maintaining a healthy and productive work environment.

How to run “Energy level” retrospectives in 7 steps

  1. Introduction (5 min): Begin by explaining the objective of the “Energy Level” retrospective. Emphasize that it’s about understanding how energy levels ebb and flow over time and the impact this has on the team’s work.
  2. Energy level scale setup (5 min): Create a scale on a whiteboard or large paper, ranging from ‘Very Low Energy’ to ‘Very High Energy’. Include intermediate points like ‘Low Energy’, ‘Neutral’, ‘High Energy’, etc.
  3. Individual reflection (10 min): Ask each team member to reflect on their energy levels throughout the sprint. They should consider what times they felt most energized and what times they felt drained or unmotivated.
  4. Plotting energy levels (15 min): Each team member marks their energy levels on the scale for different phases of the sprint. They can use sticky notes or markers to represent different days or key milestones in the sprint.
  5. Sharing and discussion (20 min): Once everyone has plotted their energy levels, go through each team member’s input. Discuss what activities or events correlated with high and low energy levels. This is an opportunity to understand the factors that contribute to the team’s overall energy.
  6. Identifying patterns and solutions (20 min): Look for patterns in the energy levels across the team. Discuss strategies to maintain high energy and address causes of low energy. This might include workload adjustments, breaks, team-building activities, etc.
  7. Action plan and conclusion (10 min): Agree on specific actions to help regulate and improve energy levels for the next sprint. Assign responsibilities and deadlines for these actions. Wrap up by reiterating the importance of maintaining a balanced energy level for team productivity and well-being.

Improve The Efficiency Of Retrospectives

There are plenty of digital tools available to facilitate retrospectives, especially for remote teams.

These tools can help in organizing, conducting, and tracking the outcomes of your sessions.

We have a guide on the best retrospective tools, you should go read it if you’re looking for one.

Check Out TeamMood

TeamMood allows you to have simple team health checks daily and gather previous team feedback anonymously to prepare meetings with data and be able to run these meetings more efficiently.

Read more about how to use
TeamMood for retrospectives.

Header photo by Gautier Pfeiffer


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