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Reflective Portrait

If you've read our blog post X-treme T-shaping In Scrum Teams you'll know the story of how a scrum team successfully completed a mini-sprint, and delivered +65% increase in velocity by not doing their own jobs! For such a special sprint, a unique sprint retrospective was required. One that provoked team empathy. To enable team members to truly reflect on what they had learnt and share their appreciation for one another. This retrospective does exactly that.

Reflective Portrait is designed to explore team empathy and understanding between members who perform different roles, strengthen their relationships as well as support personal development.

You will ask the team to reflect back on what they learnt during their T-shaping session (or sprints where they worked particularly close with one/a few other team members), potential improvements they have uncovered, what surprised them about other member's roles, as well as provide recommendations for each other.

Tools Required

  • 60 minutes
  • Spacious room
  • Flip chart paper
  • Bluetac to attach flip chart to wall
  • Sharpies/pens
  • Post-its
  • A pre-prepared portrait (more details below)


  1. Ask each team member to grab a pen and a piece of flip chart paper, find a space in the room and stick their piece of paper on the wall.

    They must then sketch a portrait of themselves in the centre of the page, as well as two lines to divide the paper into 4 even sections.

    In the top left quarter, ask them to write ‘Learnt’, and in the top right quarter write ‘Change’. To help them visualise this, come prepared with your own version Blue Peter style.
    [caption id="attachment_2368" align="aligncenter" width="323"]
  1. Reflective portrait template for the individual part - learnt and change.[/caption]
  2. Explain to the team that:

    In ‘Learnt’, they must write down the new skills, insights or learnings they gathered from T-shaping with their peers.​​
    In ‘Change’, they should write down anything they have been inspired to change within their own role. This could be process related, organisation of work, or even communication methods.

    Give the team members 10-15 mins to complete this. Once they have done so, gather everyone back together for the next part.

  3. The next part of the retro focuses on the surprises and insights gained from t-shaping with each other.

    Ask the team to header the bottom left section of their portrait ‘Surprised’ and the bottom right section ‘Recommend’. Here's the twist, each team member must then go round the room to write on each others portraits.

    In 'Surprised', they must detail the things that surprised them whilst they were t-shaping their peers.
    In 'Recommend', the must suggest ways of doing things differently.

    Allow 20 mins for this, ensuring that everyone writes something for every member they worked with. It’s always amazing what insights you gain from a fresh pair of eyes.
    [caption id="attachment_2371" align="aligncenter" width="324"]
  1. Reflective portrait template for the collaborative part - surprised and recommended added.[/caption]

Whilst the team are busy giving feedback to each other, prepare another piece of paper with a portrait of the team in the middle, and the same 4 quarters on the page - Learn, Change, Surprised, Recommend.

  1. Once the team has finished writing on each other’s portraits, it’s time for everyone to return to their own portraits and review the feedback.

    Encourage each team member to share and talk through their portraits, and the individuals who have contributed can build on what they have written. What you will hopefully witness is the admiration, appreciation and empathy the team members have for one another. Give them the time to explore this together.

  2. The final part of the retrospective draws attention to the team portrait that you prepared earlier. This time, get everyone together to discuss and feedback on the four points (learnt, change, surprise and recommend) from a team perspective.

    What have they learnt together as a team through this process, and what have the key surprises been? Is there anything they would change in the way they work or organise themselves, or how could they further their collaboration?

    Each member can write their thoughts on a post-it and stick on the team portrait. Open the floor to discussion to let the team decide on 2-3 key takeaways before closing the session.[caption id="attachment_2373" align="aligncenter" width="533"]
  1. The Reflective Portrait retrospective in action, where the team uncovered some powerful learnings and demonstrated team empathy.[/caption]

Challenging Questions

"What is one thing that you would now do differently in your day to day at work?"
It is important for each member of the team to have one key takeaway that they can implement or focus on in their day to day.

"What advice would you give yourself at the beginning of the T-shaping session?”
Now that the team members have experienced a proper T-shaping sessions, what would they advise themselves to make this session more effective?

"Why is empathy important in our work, and why do you think it is hard for us to put ourselves in other peoples positions?
It is good for the team to voice if anything holds them back from showing empathy, and how this can be addressed.


This is a unique and creative retrospective, one that will demonstrate new levels of team empathy and admiration, whilst providing powerful learnings for ways of working. The team should come away feeling stronger as a unit, but also have some actions they'd like to put in place going forward.

Let us know you get along on socials, or drop us a line with your experience using this Agile retrospective activity.

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If you have any questions or need help, please contact with Brutzai

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