Top 5 Retrospectives activities that Remote Teams used in 2023

Apr 18, 2024 · 6 min read

Blog - TopRetros2023: Hero Image

With more remote teams performing retrospectives in the platform, we thought of running a short analysis of the trends we noticed for 2023. What are the most used retrospective templates? What are some emerging practices depicted in the retrospective columns? What are some weird new ideas?

The following analysis is tool-agnostic, so check out the trends and ideas presented and apply them in whatever way you perform a retrospective - in Team O'clock or not.

Let's see what retrospective activities remote teams used in 2023.

Top 5 trending retrospectives for 2023

In 2023 remote teams performed more retrospective meetings than the previous year, which is a sign of maturing teams. Essentially, the effectiveness and growth of a team are not bound to location.

Without further ado, let's see the top retrospective activities.

1. "Start, Stop, Continue" is the most used

Almost 44% of the retrospectives in 2023 were performed on the "Start, Stop, Continue" setup with some slight variations. The Start, Stop, Continue activity is the easiest and most popular activity for teams starting with a retrospection meeting. As more remote teams enter agile and try out the retrospective, the Start, Stop, Continue activity serves as the starting point.

If you want to learn more about this activity read our comprehensive guide.

2. "Went well, Didn't go well" is used once every four retrospectives

With a whopping 27,5% of usage in 2023, the "Went well, Didn't go well" activity is trending second among remote teams. This activity takes a pragmatic and straightforward approach to retrospection, focusing on two columns for the good and the bad parts of the work delivered.

3. "Mad, Sad, Glad" in trending third for 2023

With a big difference in preference from the top two activities, "Mad, Sad, Glad" is a deliberate retrospective activity choice for remote teams. This activity touches on the emotional aspect of a team by asking more personal questions about what made each member Mad, Sad, and Glad during the evaluation period.

This trend highlights the interest in the emotional aspect of teamwork in parallel with efficiency and team growth.

4. "Liked, Learned, Lacked, Longed For" is the fourth most used activity for 2023

With a small difference from the third activity, "Liked, Learned, Lacked, Longed For" comes next in the list of trending activities. The 4L's activity is one of the most established and known retrospective activities used to promote team growth and future thinking.

To learn more about how to perform this activity, read our detailed guide.

5. "Malfunctions, Thrusters" 🚀 enters the top five list!

"Space Rocket" is a fairly easy metaphor retrospective activity that focuses on surfacing areas for improvement. By identifying areas for improvement early you can apply findings in the next work cycle.

An image showing the top 5 retrospective activities: Start/Stop/Continue, Went well/Didn't go well, Mad/Sad/Glad, The 4L's, and Space rocket

Retrospective activities insights from 2023

With the top 5 already covered, let us see the full landscape of activities performed in 2023.

Overall teams used 281 variations of activities in 2023!

A pie chart representing the distribution of activities with a different color. Start/Stop/Continue stands out with a 40% takeover, then Went well/Didn't go well is present in various forms in the chart.

The beautiful mess of a activities distribution for 2023

These variations include many of the top 5 activities. For reference, "Start, Stop, Continue" was used in 40 variations, while "Went well, didn't go well" was used in more than 100 variations (💥wow!).

Some of the most interesting activities used are:

  • ":), :|, :(" and the spin of "Good, Meh, Bad" are more emotional takes on the "Mad, Sad, Glad" activity.

  • "Easy as Pie, Shoo Fly Pie, Humble Pie, Pie in the Sky, Cutie Pie". A more playful variation of "Start, Stop, Continue" with more columns on "crazy idea" (Pie in the Sky), and "Cutie Pie" to share Kudos & Shoutouts.

  • "To fix, To keep" is a simplified "Marie Kondo" activity of sticking to the bare essentials for a retrospective.

Teams focus on well-being and effectiveness

Analyzing the activities for 2023 an interesting finding came up:

  • Kudos or Shout Out columns were present in 17,5% of the retrospectives performed. Regardless of the core retrospective activity, an extra column was added to acknowledge exceptional team and individual work.

  • Similarly, a "Questions & Discussion" column was present in 2,8% of all retrospectives in 2023. This seems like an emerging trend, cultivating openness and discussion.

Retrospectives frequency in 2023

Let's expand on the Agility Insights for 2023 with more data around retrospective frequency. Specifically, let's see how retrospectives are distributed at year, month, and weekday levels.

Graph showing the number of retrospectives performed each month of 2023. There is a spike for January and a small drop on December.

"New Year's resolution" effect, but for teams

New Year's resolution is a trend for teams too. There is a clear spike in retrospectives performed in January, where teams probably have a retrospective for the passing year. In a similar manner, we notice a slight decrease in retrospective meetings in December - at year's end.

Graph showing meetings distribution per day of a month. There is a spike of retrospective meetings on the 30th day of the month.

One retrospective per month, and at month's end! This finding aligns with the 2023 Agility Report about retrospective frequency in a month.

A graph showing retrospective meetings distribution in weekdays. The graph is higher for Friday. Sunday and Saturday are not zero.

Friday seems to be the preferred day for a retrospective, although the preference is not that obvious.

Mike Giannakopoulos

Author: Mike Giannakopoulos

Mike is an active Senior Product Manager, working on front-end development, design, and experience of Team O'clock.

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