In Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great! Esther Derby and I include a collection of activities we called, "Short Subjects." (page 122)

After Gathering Data, these useful activities provide relatively quick ways to review event, effort, and response data; reflect on the implications of the data; and Generate Insights about team experiences.

We listed these activities into a single section because they follow a similar process.

  1. The retrospective leader posts labeled flip charts (or sections on a white board).
  2. Team members take a few minutes (typically 3-5 minutes) to reflect on the data and identify items or ideas for each category.
  3. The retrospective leader describes a method for getting ideas on the charts. She may ask team members to write on sticky notes (1 per item) and post them on the appropriate chart. He may lead a brainstorming session and record the comments on the charts.
  4. Team members identify and cluster similar items, then filter and prioritize them to determine what comes next.

In the book, we describe several Short Subjects including the familiar:

  • What worked well/ Do differently next time
  • Keep/Drop/Add
  • Stop Doing/Start Doing/Keep Doing
  • Mad/Sad/Glad

Now we can add two new Short Subjects activities to the list:


SaMoLo (Same of/More of/Less of) comes from a Scrumology post by David Bland. David says, "I’ve discovered that SaMoLo can also be the sweet spot for easing new teams into iteration retrospectives." For more on how David led his team through this activity, read his informative post.

Liked/Lacked/Longed For

From the Deep Agile conference in Boston, Tobias Mayer used Twitter to highlight this variation. He tweeted, "#deepagile bringing poetry into retrospectives... liked, lacked, longed for." I think of this as the Jane Austen version of Short Subjects. I look forward to bringing it to a team that has just experienced a difficult or poignant iteration or retrospective. (Late breaking news: Ellen Gottesdiener tells me that Mary Gorman was the person who introduced LLL at Deep Agile. Thanks, Mary!) (Even later breaking news: Ellen and Mary give a fuller description of their 4L's activity.)

Tip: Short Subjects can also provide variety in Closing the Retrospective, as a way for the retrospective leader to ask for feedback on the retrospective.