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A facilitator's guide to running a Retrospective


The Retrospective Play is designed to help teams identify what worked, what didn’t, and why at critical moments. Run this foundational Play regularly—whether that means every few weeks or at the end of each project—and you will quickly become a more capable and confident facilitator.

Using the Confluence template for a Retrospective

You can run the Play using a variety of tools, including a simple Confluence template. Let’s take a look at the template in detail:

'Excel' at the Retrospective

There are four qualities that can help every facilitator get the most out of their Retrospective workshops: Excitement, Confidence, Environment, and Leadership (ExCEL). The purpose of ‘ExCEL’ is to help you understand what skills and attitudes you will develop as you become a more experienced Play leader. Every facilitator will begin with varying levels of comfort in these four categories.

Excitement: Get excited about a Retrospective with a positive attitude.

Confidence: Practice facilitating a Retrospective to build confidence.

Before you run a Retrospective, envision the journey of the entire Play from beginning to end. Place yourself at step one and walk through the diagram below, capturing any thoughts or concerns that come to mind. Finally, visualize your team sharing insights and next steps. What does it look like and how does it feel?


Practice by doing a talk-through or a full practice run of the Play. Review the instructions, take note of any likely blockers, and practice the verbal cues you will use to help your team transition from one step to the next. This will help you reinforce good habits and prevent bad ones as you gain more experience running Plays.

Pro tip: Record yourself doing a dry run. This is nerve-wracking but extremely helpful. When you watch a recording of your dry run, you will inevitably notice many things to change, expand on, or eliminate.

Environment: Set the tone and establish context for your team at the beginning of a Retrospective.

Start by stating the purpose of the Play and answering any questions. Monitor the team’s energy and mood throughout the Play by checking in to see if they have questions and making sure they are staying focused on the goals.

Leadership: Facilitate by guiding.

Don't overwhelm participants by talking too much. Instead, gently steer conversations by asking open-ended questions. Remain positive and lead by example by focusing on solutions rather than problems.

The ExCEL framework is a simple but important tool for charting your growth as a facilitator. Return to it often, and focus on developing your weaker areas.

Don’t forget to retro your Retros

While it’s good to standardize your Retros, it’s also important to embrace a spirit of continuous improvement and look for opportunities to tweak the Play based on feedback from your team.

Try experimenting with different time limits for your Retrospectives, or invite your team members to share their feedback on the Play. Encourage your team members to suggest changes and let them know that you are willing to tinker with the Retrospective format in order to find a solution that fits your team.


Find more training resources for Atlassian Team Playbook on Atlassian Community:


This is really good content!

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I never realised how much preparation is required for a retrospective until I started doing them. It works so much better if you prepare first! Great advice in this article, thanks.

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Brant Schroeder Community Leader Nov 06, 2020

Great information.  This is an activity that teams should do more often during projects, as a newly formed team, as an old team, etc. to really learn how you can improve and what is working well.  Taking an hour out of a busy work schedule can pay dividends and improve everything from productivity to moral.

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Sajit Nair Community Leader Nov 17, 2020

awesome read. Thanks team

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Dave Liao Community Leader Dec 01, 2020

@Brant Schroeder - agreed! Not only do retrospectives keep things interesting (if you mix up the formats, you're keeping things engaging for everyone), but different retro formats are suited for different teams.

For teams that have been together for long while, I find retro formats focused on getting more specific feedback/inputs from teammates to be valuable.

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DPK J Community Leader Jan 08, 2021

Great read.

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Alexis Robert Community Leader Jan 15, 2021

Great article thanks !

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Taranjeet Singh Community Leader Jan 15, 2021

Great article! Thanks for sharing!

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Sudarshan Community Leader May 13, 2021

Good article.!

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Really good article

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Mayur Jadhav Community Leader Sep 18, 2021

Really Good Article!!!

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G subramanyam Community Leader Dec 04, 2021

Hi @Christine P_ Dela Rosa I have been facilitating  this retrospective meetings since few years as part of my job role and in general to see how the work has been received by all team members. I'm able to connect with this article instantly and knew how much preparation is needed before and after the retrospective. 

I liked the way the information is presented in this article and ExCEL concept. 

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