Want to improve how you and your company learn? Here’s how.


At Bunny Studio, we’re shaping the future of outsourcing. Learn from our mistakes and successes with our “A Toolkit for Everyone” series. This is where we provide resources so you can shape your future, too.

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First, the basics.


What is a retrospective? It’s a document written to learn from past actions and behaviors. At Bunny Studio, we use retrospectives to review performance, specifically team performance. They are also a time for teams to use their learnings to plan for the future, ensuring that everyone understands their mission and role.

There are several ways of running retrospectives — you have heard of the term “sprint retrospective” before, but we do things differently.

Retrospectives take place during periods of change such as at the end of a quarter, year or project. They also take place when a team member changes roles or leaves for new challenges.

The whole retrospective process takes time, yes. But it’s worth it. Participants get better at identifying mistakes and avoiding them in the future. Participants also reinforce good behavior and congratulate themselves on achievements. Taking this pause for learning and alignment means increased speed and efficiency for the project overall.

Results alone are important, yes, but combining results and learnings is what will sustain growth and innovation.

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Before beginning, the team leader should decide on two things.

  • Who is taking part in the retrospective? All team members that participated in the project should be included.
  • What time frame is being looked at? A quarter, a year, a project? All are valid options.

Once that has been decided, there are three stages to running a retrospective. All in all, a team retrospective should take about two hours to complete, depending on the size of your team.

This stage takes place before the team meets. It’s a time for team members to read their previous retrospective, if one exists, and brainstorm individually on the following questions.

  • Where have you achieved? Where have you succeeded and where have you failed?
  • What helped you to succeed? What blocked your path? What did you learn?
  • What are the action steps moving forward?

This stage is a team exercise. Through questions, it focuses on retrieving the most important lessons learned.

All team members should reflect on the questions individually first, then share. A facilitator leads this discussion, fostering the dialogue. This could be the leader or another team member, whoever is more comfortable leading the discussions. All participants should be open to different views and debate all perspectives.

Below are some of the questions we ask ourselves during retrospectives at Bunny Studio They can be used as-is, or be adapted as needed. A full list of all the questions we ask ourselves is available in the downloaded template provided below.

Suggested questions.

  • Align the why — Go back and make sure everyone on the team is on the same page. Greatness avoids running fast without having an aim.
  • What problem, or problems, is the team currently trying to solve during this quarter or project?
  • Is solving that problem currently having an impact on the team or company?
  • What solutions is the team working towards?
  • Achievements and misses — Working towards excellence involves being aware of things that are going well and things that have not been achieved as planned.
  • What are the team’s top five achievements?
  • What are the team’s top five misses?
  • Execution quality — It is important to be aware of things that can disrupt a team’s workflow.
  • What were the major disruptors that stopped the team from getting things done?
  • How did the team handle any unforeseen circumstances?
  • What were the most important drivers of success and why?
  • Lessons learned — With self-evaluation, successes can be replicated and repeated failures avoided.
  • What were the team’s lessons from success?
  • What were the team’s lessons from failure?

Yeah, we ask a lot of questions. It’s the facilitator’s job to make sure the discussion keeps flowing and does not stagnate as the questions are answered. All those answers, though, are crucial to the next step.

We may be a remote company, but we get together in person once a year at our retreat to learn and have fun together.

This is the most important step. After discussion, the team decides on specific actions to put the activity’s learnings into action.

At Bunny Studio, we use the following sentence format to make it easier to determine a learning structure.

This happened… [describe an achievement or failure]. Because of that… [describe the consequence]. Moving forward… [describe what actions your team will take to reinforce or avoid behaviors].

Pay special attention to any repeated lessons from the past and confront repeated mistakes in others and yourself. This breaks unhelpful cycles.

A team’s learnings will be varied and should be devised with input from all team members.

Once the learnings have been established, define action steps to put them into action. That, after all, is how learning will become doing. What should you and your team start, stop, and continue doing?

After finishing, the retrospective is typed up and shared. At Bunny Studio, we do this via our multiple Slack channels. This fosters peer-to-peer learning. Because what’s the point of knowledge if it is not to share it? Everyone should take the time to read the retrospectives of other teams.

During retrospectives, team leaders have some extra things to think about.

It is a leader’s responsibility to add or discontinue information. Retrospectives can involve a lot of information and can get confusing. When this happens, the leader must provide the most accurate information to their team.

It is a leader’s responsibility to find alignment and understanding for the team. Retrospectives can lead to intense discussion and, maybe, disagreement. When this happens, the leader must summarise the information without overshadowing the other members, and decide the on best way forward.

In summary, leaders guide and provide context to discussions. They are directly responsible for shaping the retrospective and its impact.

The most important part.

So, what’s the takeaway from all this? Well, retrospectives won’t fix everything. But they are a tool that can help a teamwork better together. How?

  • By increasing analytical and communication skills.
  • By breaking cycles of repeated mistakes and lessons.
  • By creating a historic record of company learnings that other team members can draw from.
  • By fostering alignment on important issues, allowing the company to work faster and more quickly and efficiently.

Retrospectives definitely work for us and have shaped how we approach business, for the better.

It’s important to learn from failures and improve, but it’s just as important to celebrate and learn from successes. Retrospectives also teach us what is working and what is not. With that information, we can break bad habits and build good ones.

Need some more guidance? See below for our retrospective template.

Retrospective Template

Block up to 4 hours of your time with your team, gather them all in a video call, and do the following three steps per section:

1. Ask your team members to individually answer each question on a piece of paper.

2. After all of you have answered each question, share them out loud, and discuss them as a group.

3. Write down the agreements you come to on this template.

Tip: Use plain English. You are writing not only for yourselves but for others, too.

Happy learnings!

Step 1: Setting up.

  1. Name a document as: Retrospective “name of your team’’ — Q# [or month] 20##.
  2. Make sure you save this document in your team’s designated space. Be organized.
  3. Add the names of the people that will participate in creating this retrospective.
  4. Refer to each section’s instructions to clarify doubts.
  5. Make sure you have at least 4 hours ahead of you, including “buffer time”. Four hours is the average length of time it takes a team to complete a retrospective, but your team might be quicker or slower.
  6. Set up a timer to help you navigate each section.

Questions to ask.

  • Have you named your retrospective properly?
  • Have you saved your retrospective document in your team’s designated space?
  • Who is leading this retrospective?
  • Who else participated in building this retrospective?

Step 3: Aligning the “why”.

Avoid working quickly and effectively towards the WRONG goal. Great teams share the same understanding on the why they are doing what they are doing. Speed alone is not enough for great teams. They also have direction.

For this section, answer all 3 questions at the same time. When looking into the solutions, you may find you share the same answer. However, you may find different problems that you are aiming to resolve. Discuss.

Estimated time: 30 minutes.

Questions to ask.

  • What is the problem your team is currently trying to solve?
  • What is the impact that solving that problem is currently having on your team and organization?
  • What is the solution your team is working towards?

Step 4: Achievements and misses.

Great teams are aware of their achievements and their misses. They are conscious about how they are helping the company move forward while recognizing the goals that might not have been achieved. Great teams are aware and critical about their work and recognize both elements.

Achievements are goals that your team achieved or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that performed better than projected. Misses are goals or projections that your team didn’t achieve.

Estimated time: 20 minutes.

Questions to ask.

  • What were your top 5 achievements?
  • What were your top 5 misses?

Step 5: Execution quality and team leadership.

Teams manage complex details and unforeseen circumstances. Effective teams are the ones that have a clear understanding of their dependencies and plan their projects while being aware of them.

Estimated time: 30 minutes.

Questions to ask.

  • What did you underestimate and why? List your top 3 elements.
  • Where did you spend the most unplanned amount of time and why? List your top 3 elements.
  • What were the major disruptors during the execution process and why? List your top 3 elements.
  • How did you handle unforeseen circumstances? List your top 3 elements.
  • What were the most important drivers of success and why? List your top 3 elements.

Step 6: Lessons from success and failure.

Great teams differentiate between single-loop and double-loop learning. The difference between the two is the ability to self-evaluate.

To force a learning structure, write sentences using the following format:

This happened… [describe what happened]. Because of that… [describe the consequence]. Moving forward… [describe what actions your team will take to reinforce or avoid behaviors].

Estimated time: 40 minutes.

Questions to ask.

  • What were your lessons from success? List your top 3.
  • What were your lessons from failure? List your top 3.
  • Are there any repeated lessons from failure from the past quarters?

Step 7: Areas of improvement and reinforcement.

Understanding your weak points is not enough if you don’t take action to fix them. Great teams clearly understand the things they need to start doing, the things they need to stop doing, and the things they want to continue doing more.

Add as many elements are you consider appropriate per box.

Tip: Don’t start doing something new without stopping something else. Monitor your personal, and your team’s, bandwidth.

Estimated time: 20 minutes.

Questions to ask.

  • What should we start doing?
  • What should we start doing?
  • What should we continue doing?

Step 8: Share your retrospective.

Great teams share their learnings with other teams. This multiplies the impact of their learnings.

Estimated time: 5 minutes.

Questions to ask.

  • Have you shared your retrospective with fellow colleagues and teams?

The world around you is evolving. Don’t be afraid to change the way your team works.

Happy learnings!


Please note this blog is a copy of the original published in Medium by Emmy Tither.