A meaningful Retrospective to drive results: “Feelings and Paths”

Many people complain about lack of team engagement in retrospectives. Because of that, the facilitator’s role is to guide the participants to reach the desired results. That means helping the team to create; understanding and accepting them. Therefore, the facilitator also has to be creative. The basic technique “what went well, what didn’t” fails to motivate even the Scrum Master. It means that it’s up to us to create new ways to do retrospectives. Based on this principle, we came up with contextualized dynamics. In this post, we’ll introduce the “Feelings and Paths” Retrospective.

“Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need” – Agile Manifesto.


First of all, Lula (one of our coaches) and I were working together on a team. So, the members shared with us a lot of different experiences in a short period. Finally, I realized that we had several feelings in the air. I thought it was important for people to think about the team and how they were relating to and dealing with each other’s feelings.

“Individuals and interactions over processes and tools” – Agile Manifesto.

The Retrospective Activity

Step 1

The first step is to ask all participants to write down their feelings on sticky notes – one note per feeling. As the notes are added to the board, the facilitators group similar feelings on the upper part.

Visual facilitation is an essential step in promoting participant engagement. Simple drawings like circles around groups of sticky notes (clustering), or even an icon representing the word feelings, are subtle tools that provide motivation.

Step 2

We draw our team members using the bottom part of the board. Some poorly pulled stick figures will guarantee a good laugh. Connecting the team drawing and the groups of feelings, we draw paths and ask pairs or trios to write down which actions or events led to those feelings.

Consequently, the results are usually interesting. Events that were significant for everyone are noted alongside isolated actions that personally impacted one or two team members, but which few others were aware of those actions.

Step 3

Then, we start chatting and reflecting as a group on which of these actions/events; which were the most important ones and outlining possible action plans. During the retrospective, inspection and adaptation are the keywords for successful facilitation.

“At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly” – Agile Manifesto.

As a result, people often feel energized at the end of this activity, where several reality checks can occur. Desired behaviors are strengthened, while undesired ones are discouraged. The activity is relevant for understanding how to use feelings to achieve better results as a team.


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Samuel Cavalcante


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