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Mad Sad Glad Retrospective

Mad, Sad, Glad retrospective is super simple that you can whip out with any team, at any time, with minimal preparation. Not only is this a great retrospective for co-located teams, but this activity can easily be facilitated with remote teams without too much technological wizardry.

Tools Required

  • Whiteboard and markers (or a digital alternative)
  • Post-its and pens


  1. Divide your whiteboard (or digital alternative) into 3 sections:- Mad- Sad- Glad
  2. Ask the team to write down on a post-it anything that has made them 'mad' over the last sprint or iteration, then stick it up in that section of the board. Repeat for 'sad' and 'glad', allowing 5-10 minutes for each section.
  3. Once the team have covered all three sections, you can begin to go through each section and see if there are any key themes arising, clarifying meaning as you go and encouraging discussion until the team are happy their contributions have been heard.'Mad' and 'sad' are likely to bring out tough themes that will require more discussion and potentially lead to some valuable takeaways. 'Glad' is likely to prompt celebration of great work, effective teamwork and positive comments. Make sure these discussions get plenty of airtime and the team feel recognised - individually and as a whole!
  4. Finally, you can draw some conclusion to the discussion and bring the team towards action to help them in their future sprints or iterations. We’ll cover that in takeaways – but first, let’s look at some challenging questions that can really help the team get clarity on their situation.

Challenging Questions

Asking questions may help the team to unpack some of the more complex issues that have been raised, or they may be directed at members of the group who’ve had less of a chance to speak. Here are some easy examples:“What is the real challenge here?”Great for getting straight to the root of a discussion, especially if the team are going round in circles over a theme.“Is there anything else here that we haven’t covered?”Helps make sure everyone has contributed. Also good for moving a repetitive conversation along.“What advice would you give to another team in this situation?”Enables the team to step out of the picture and look in with a fresh perspective. Helps draw out positive learnings.“Has anyone got a different view on this?”Gives those who maybe don’t agree with the current conversation an opportunity to speak up.“Is there anyone who hasn’t spoken on this theme yet that would like to contribute?”Offers an opportunity for the quieter members of the team to speak."Is this within our circle of control?"Sometimes we raise very valid issues, however, the solution may be totally outside of our control. Asking this question can help bring a conversation to a constructive conclusion and move the team along to issues that are within their ability to control.


Getting actions from this mad sad glad retrospective shouldn't be the be-all and end-all... But, you can expect learnings or ideas for improvement to crop up quite naturally.Once the mad, sad&glad sections have been fully discussed, and you’ve asked those challenging questions, you can finish by asking:

What action could we take away that would make the biggest difference in moving any of our themes from mad or sad, to glad?

It may be doubling down on something that's already making them glad, or it may be dealing with something that’s making them mad or sad.Try and stick to one action only where possible. Get clarity on:

  • What the action is
  • What will it look like when it’s done
  • When will it be done by
  • Who’s going to ensure it happens

It’s important that you let the team come up with their own actions and take responsibility for them. A great coach brings awareness and prompts responsibility; this way, the team will feel like they own their actions and will be far more likely to follow through.

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