4Ls Retrospective

What is a 4Ls retrospective?

4Ls retrospective is a brainstorming technique used by project teams to review their progress and identify ways to improve moving forward. This retrospective technique elicits feedback using different questions to a traditional agile retrospective.

The 4Ls retrospective focuses on four areas:

  • Liked – What did the team like about this sprint/iteration/project?
  • Learned – What did the team learn during this sprint/iteration/project?
  • Lacked – What did the team lack during this period?
  • Longed for – What do the team long for?

Why do a 4Ls retrospective?

The 4Ls retrospective is simple to set up and requires no special knowledge or equipment to facilitate.

The 4Ls method asks more personal questions compared with other approaches such as an agile retrospective. The result is a greater focus on the team’s attitude and identification of important motivational factors.

Retrospectives allow a project team to:

  • Highlight positive aspects of the project as well the negative.
  • Take time out to reflect, evaluate, and determine how to improve moving forward.
  • Address issues affecting team communications and performance.
  • Bring everyone up to speed and reach consensus on important aspects of a project.
  • Deal with problems sooner rather than later.
  • Solve their own problems and take ownership of the solutions.

Who should use a 4Ls Retrospective?

4Ls is commonly used for software development teams, however its simplicity also makes it useful for:

  • All project retrospectives and reviews
  • Any team wanting to improve their performance
  • Reviewing training and conference events
  • Reviewing personal performance over a period of time
Related templates
Tips for effective retrospectives
Check out our online retro tool TeamRetro

4Ls retrospective template

Liked

Aspects of the project the team feels went really well.

These are things that should continue as the project moves forward.

Trigger questions:

  • What did you enjoy during the previous project cycle or sprint?
  • What happened that you really liked?
  • What aspects of the project went better than expected?

Lacked

Aspects of the project that didn’t go so well.

The team tries to find solutions for these issues and plans actions to improve.

Trigger questions:

  • What could the team have done better?
  • What has been happening that could be improved?
  • What aspects made the team dissatisfied?
  • What difficulties did we have?

Learned

Knowledge team members gained over the previous period.

This includes technical and nontechnical learnings. They inform actions and changes for the next cycle.

Trigger questions:

  • What new skills did you learn?
  • What new knowledge did you gain?

Longed for

Things that were unavailable during the previous cycle that would improve the project.

The team tries to work out how to obtain or implement these aspects.

Trigger questions:

  • What do you wish was happening?
  • What would help you do your job better?
  • What equipment, processes, or skills would make the project easier or more efficient?

How to run a 4Ls retrospective

A project retrospective is an opportunity for the team to share their experience of the previous project cycle and focus on what to improve in the future, so it’s important to have all members involved. When teams are distributed across different locations, it can be difficult to get everyone together at the same time.

Screen sharing software and video conferencing allow facilitators to use traditional brainstorming tools such as whiteboards and sticky notes but there may still be issues ensuring everyone’s voice is heard. Online collaboration software such as GroupMap solves many of these problems and provides a cost-effective means of getting a great result.

The time to run a 4L’s retrospective meeting will vary depending on the scope of the session. Setting and keeping to “timeboxes” for each stage can help streamline the process. Teams should be able to identify and prioritize issues and develop an action plan in less than 30 minutes.

Brainstorm

Discuss and populate each section of the 4Ls retrospective template.

Group

Discuss and group any common themes.

Prioritize

Vote on the key areas you need to take action on.

Action Plan

Identify actions for each priority idea. Assign responsibility and timeframes to a group or individual.

Share

Share the outcomes of the session, including the action plan, to relevant stakeholders.

Cross Device Compatibility

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