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
4Ls retrospective template
These are things that should continue as the project moves forward.
- 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?
The team tries to find solutions for these issues and plans actions to improve.
- 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?
This includes technical and nontechnical learnings. They inform actions and changes for the next cycle.
- What new skills did you learn?
- What new knowledge did you gain?
The team tries to work out how to obtain or implement these aspects.
- 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.
Discuss and populate each section of the 4Ls retrospective template.
Discuss and group any common themes.
Vote on the key areas you need to take action on.
Identify actions for each priority idea. Assign responsibility and timeframes to a group or individual.
Share the outcomes of the session, including the action plan, to relevant stakeholders.
Revisit the “Prime Directive” to lay the ground rules and establish expectations for behavior during the meeting.
Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.
4L ideas may be gathered individually or as a group using a whiteboard, sticky notes, Google Docs, or a specialized online collaboration tool such as GroupMap.
Start by capturing ideas for “Liked” and then move onto the other three quadrants in order. Each idea should be made visible to everyone, and discussed, clarified, and challenged where necessary, to ensure all participants have a shared understanding.
It’s important to drill down to the root cause of each idea and support it with data where possible. That includes things that went well and those which didn’t.
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