2 - Develop insights

Part 2 of integrative retrospective - Gather retrospective data, explore and develop insights.
Written by Martin West
Updated 2 years ago

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Please see detailed medium article "Develop insights (part 2 of integrative retrospective)"

Context of integrative retrospective

In the article, “Use integrative retrospectives for continuous improvement” we identified that, if we are targeting continuous improvement, the game needs to change.

The parts of an integrative retrospective are:

Part 2 — Develop Insights

This article covers part 2 — Develop insights. It is most similar to the 5-step retrospective. It’s purpose is to build a backlog of incremental improvements, innovation and change for the team and organization to tackle.

The actual flow of the ceremony can follow the 5-step process — 1) set the table (open); 2) Gather data; 3) Generate insights; 4) Decide what to do and 5) close the retrospective.

The most popular cadence to align these ceremonies is at the end of sprints. Given Scrum and the design for the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle, this makes sense most of the time. However, you need to keep two key considerations in mind:

  • Good backlog management

This translates to small & incremental change, where possible. However larger change initiatives need to be identified and taken on for the team, or a broader set of teams.

Limited work-in-progress — there is a limited level of change that is possible — hence it is important to be working on the highest priority changes sequenced to have the biggest value impact.

  • Ongoing capture of learning

Learnings don’t just happen when people do retrospectives — tools need to be available at any time for data to be captured while the issue/learning is fresh in the teams mind. Progressing into the backlog can normally wait until the retrospective. In this way, it is processed in priority and with team involvement.

There are 2 cards in this “Develop Insights” part of the retrospective

  • 2.1 Reflect on your achievements against your goals
  • 2.2 Gather insights and prioritize together

Card 2.1 Reflect on your achievements against your goals


This step is to gather data. This is Step 2 of the 5-step retrospective process. It is distributed to the team in advance and is private. The facilitator can choose not to have this step. It is used to save meeting time and to give each participant the time they need to reflect prior to the meeting.

The alternative is to select an interplay where the first card is “shared” rather than “private” or just move forward to the next card (without waiting for data entry). For more details see the knowledge base article on “Selecting an interplay”.

The card has a set of standard retro questions — header and body questions

Header questions are private and are not shared: a) How do you feel about the sprint?; b) What was the best part?; c) What was the most painful part? d) Note on actions you would like to take and/or constraints you would like to be removed… (as reminders for later part of the conversation).

Why do we have these header questions? These are optional by definition. However they are designed to be relaxing and easier to answer. They ask for personal opinions with no need to share… I find them useful to get me writing, get me thinking. Going from what was the best part to what went well is a simple reframe in words I want to share. To go from What was most painful to what didn’t go well is a larger reframe but much easier once I’ve expressed my pain to myself.

Think of header questions as a brain dump — write and don’t think too much. This is not shared.

Body questions are shared and should be framed directly where possible, honestly, with vulnerability and without blame… It helps to use your brain dump to reflect and build those frames. The questions will be set by the facilitator or lead. The current defaults are a) what went well, b) what didn’t go well, c) what am I curious or puzzled about and d) what needs to be improved. These may have been amended.

Reflection on targets

Often a team will state whether they met their sprint goal or they didn’t. While this is a useful measure, we can benefit from a further breakdown within the team for reflecting on performance against goals (not for outside consumption).

When in part-1 Agree on targets, participants should reflect on their achievements against their goals and target key results.

Note — Value of targets: Our intent in having targets is two-fold:

  • increase predictability around meeting targets and goals. The benefit is for the team to be able to communicate with predictability about their planned achievements.
  • improve planning — the benefit is learning to foresee issues and difficulties. And therefore be able to make plans to address issues in advance rather than making them as a response.


The card can be distributed at the beginning of the sprint. In this way, data can be captured at any time. The facilitator or lead can set a deadline for the card so they can review the input prior to the retrospective meeting.

The facilitator or lead can determine with the team whether the names of participants providing the input are shown or hidden.

2.2 Gather insights and prioritize together


This card can include all 5-steps of the retrospective process. The facilitator or lead will structure the session. The outcome is a good understanding of what is working well and a set of insights into what needs further discussion and action. This is a team discussion. i.e. each person takes responsibility to understand the team experience. Each person is encouraged to be curious and engage in a discussion.

The following is predefined, can be edited, added to or deleted as part of the interplay definition. The facilitator can design their flow in advance of each step. They can also define all these elements on the fly as part of the facilitation or as part of a conversation with the participants.

  • Events — 1) Check-in; 2) Build topic list; 3) Add actions; 4) Prioritize (Vote)
  • Labels — One Label only — “Find the pattern in the ideas you are presented with”
  • Activities — Process (gather), rank for the priority of actions, vote to prioritize actions.
  • Voting question — “Vote according to your priority” — 8 votes per person
  • Scoring question — None
  • Ranking question — “Rank for the priority to take on actions” — rank (score) top 6 answers.


If “2.1 Reflect on your achievements against your goals” is used to capture the reflections of team members, then the flow could be:

  1. Check-in
  2. Grouping to remove duplication
  3. In parallel, build out the themes (as groups) and label topics as each question and answers are reviewed.
  4. Filter one topic at a time, and ensure that the ideas are well reflected in the answers to the question “what needs improvement?”
  5. Everyone votes, scores and/or ranks the answers “topics (action items)” to what needs improvement. The facilitator or lead can define one or many questions in the vote, score or rank of the topics. They can have multiple events too.
  6. These topics (action items) are passed to the next card for planning.

If 2.1 is not used to capture data, the facilitator or lead can run data gathering event(s) to capture the answers to the questions within the meeting after the check-in.

The Xapty interface is highly flexible to accommodate the flow that the facilitator or lead with the team wants to follow. See knowledge base articles: Cards, its different types or Facilitating with Xapty or Participating with Xapty for more information.

Call to action

Facilitation is a critical skill used by leaders to build alignment. We offer an integrative retrospective that helps you drive continuous improvement. We’ve identified a 3 step plan:

  1. Start: Select an effective team and use stage 2 — develop insights and stage 3 — build action plans
  2. With success: Add stage 1 — agree targets to make stage 2 target driven. And add stage 4 — align with an agreement to remove constraints from stage 3 — action plans.
  3. Expand with Stages 1,2 & 3 to more agile teams. Engage connected teams to build agreements. Teams like product owners, customers, executives.
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