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Play of the month: Do you try to make room for more of the work you love?

Kristen Roth Community Manager Feb 17, 2021

Most of us are probably pretty familiar with traditional Retrospectives. But we’ve got another variation for you to try – and we think you’ll really like it! It’ll not only help you make room for doing more of the work you love, but it’ll also help you uncover ways to do less of the work you’re… not so thrilled about.

The 4Ls Retrospective allows us to take a look back at our work during a chosen time period from a factual and an emotional perspective. It asks: What did you love about your work? On the contrary, which parts did you loathe? Were there things you longed for? And, most importantly, what did you learn? Compared to a traditional retro, the difference here might seem subtle, but even the slightest shift in our thinking can open up new insights for us to take action on.

(Here's how to run the Play in Trello! ⬇️) 

4ls in trello.jpg

Do you and your team dedicate time to run regular retrospectives? And, if so, have you ever tried the 4Ls format? We’d love to hear more about the different techniques and formats you use to reflect back upon your work!  



I love this idea!  We just had some changes on our team, and this may be just the thing to shift their perspective.  I'm going to try it!  and I love the idea of a shared Trello Board!

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Awesome, @Marianne Miller 🙌  Hope your team enjoys this Play and that you all come away with some great insights! Let us know how it goes! 

Hi @Kristen Roth 

   Great, In the first chance I can, I will try it, I find it great to use Trello


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Kristen Roth Community Manager Feb 17, 2021

We hope it goes well for you, @Vero Rivas !

Like Vero Rivas likes this

This is a great one, and will be easy to remember! We have "Lessons Learned" meetings that I think could benefit from this format -- including the Trello board. 

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Kristen Roth Community Manager Feb 18, 2021

Oooh. I love the sound of "Lessons Learned" meetings! Are they similar to retrospectives?

Like Zaq Powell likes this

Is there also a "mistakes were made" board?  If not, I think that would be a great addition here.  Perhaps I should read a little on the Lessons learned board to see if most comment on their own mistakes and subsequent lessons they learned, or if most prefer to write about lessons they have learned from observing other people's mistakes? hmmmm....

Like Kristen Roth likes this

I love this idea, @Amanda Turner. As you hinted, maybe a "Lessons Learned" and "Mistakes we made" meeting or board could be one and the same? Even if the meeting's purpose is to any discuss mistakes/errors we've made, calling it something like "Lessons learned" sounds much less scary. wink

Like Amanda Turner likes this

Can't have one without the other!  Mistakes were made thus lessons were learned.  :) 

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Jimmy Seddon Community Leader Feb 17, 2021

This is really great @Kristen Roth!  I've seen similar things in the past, but I really like the language of the 4Ls.  I'm going to recommend this to our managers as something to try during the next retrospectives.

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Kristen Roth Community Manager Feb 18, 2021

Great, @Jimmy Seddon ! I hope they enjoy this format! 

We deliver digitisation/preservation services for a national cultural institution. As such, a lot of what we do is "factory" work interspersed with some project work. We run our 4L on quarterly basis. We also run Team Health Monitor on a monthly basis and a SWOT analysis at the beginning of our yearly planning cycle. So the SWOT defines how we see ourselves and the 4L captures the "experience" of our teams in their working environment.

We collate the results of the SWOT and the 4L into three groups - the Good Place (Strengths, Loved and Learned), the Bad Place (Weaknesses, Threats, Loathed) and the Opportunity Place (Opportunities and Longed For). We use these as thinking triggers to identify projects and tasks that we can carry out within the team with the idea that we want to make the Good Place as large as possible and the Bad place as small as possible. 

We then use a Trello board to track how we are progressing toward our objectives, which might include things like Maximise our capabilities to deliver services to clients, Develop professional excellence, Engage with influence collegiate organisations, etc. This is basically a dashboard where the team can see the results of their work and the planning in action.

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Kristen Roth Community Manager Feb 26, 2021

Wow, @Gregory Oakes Your team process is enviable! I love the idea of breaking out your results from SWOT and 4Ls into those three "Place" groups, and the fact that you have a team Trello board for tracking progress. It's so important to make sure we hold ourselves and our teams accountable for actually making changes after we run these exercises and it sounds like you've got it all down 🙌

Jack Brickey Community Leader Mar 08, 2021

@Kristen Roth , thanks for sharing. I keep coming back to the Team Playbook from time to time just to pick up on new ideas. The 4Ls is nicely laid out. I have to say that for almost all of my retrospectives the biggest challenge is getting the team to contribute. I sometimes wonder if they really care or maybe there isn't anything that really stands out. I think if the retrospective is chaired by a scrum master, PM or other person that is really in tune with what tool place and can leverage that to pull the team into an active discussion that certainly helps.

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Kristen Roth Community Manager Mar 08, 2021

Sure thing, @Jack Brickey!

Hmm, interesting. What facilitation format do you typically use to run your retros (Confluence page, Trello board, sticky notes, something else)? And at what time points (a regular monthly/quarterly cadence, or a project milestone)? 

I've participated in retros that have a more personal approach that could lead to more engagement from your team. For example, instead of having the team generally discuss what went well (and not so well) during a specific time period/project, we'd individually list out our personal thoughts and experiences, and then go around and share each of our 3-5 "most important" items with the group. It's common to see themes emerge from those individual share outs which can then be used to generate what the team should stop, start, and continue.

Think something like that might be worth a try with your team?

Since I adopted Confluence that is the place of choice. It is worth noting that I am mostly on the sidelines of these retros vs. running them. So I have the opportunity to play fly-on-the-wall. Timing varies: sprint reviews are bi-weekly, projects that have an end date are almost always at the end of project (2-3months).

I have found that the personal approach can be good. I have participated in some lunch-time chats or after work volleyball sessions open folks up more. However, with C-19 that has made those more challenging. I think what is key is to get the members minds flushed of their current fire drills (what is currently on their mind) and onto the 50k' view of the retro inspection at hand. That is where a really good leader is imperative.

  • Ice breakers
  • around the room chats
  • etc.
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Hi @Jack Brickey
Reading your troubles with the team within a retrospective makes me smile a little bit and also be thankful, that oviously not only we have this problem. 

I'm not really sure if this is based on the general situation at my customer (the development and business analyst team is a mixture of internal cusomer coworkers and external developers) or if they really don't have any issues within our working. 

And yes I agree with you, those things are stands and falls with a good leader and the possibility to motivate the team members. Did you see for you any difference, after you increased the personal approach? 

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Awesome content!!  

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Jayesh Baviskar Community Leader May 05, 2021

Nice Idea, thanks for sharing

Like Kristen Roth likes this

Great idea. We have quite good retrospectives now, but these meetings can be boring when the project is going well and almost everyting is "green". So this idea can make retrospectives definitelly more interesting and can motivate team members to be more active :).

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Kristen Roth Community Manager May 10, 2021

I hear you! This format definitely adds a new twist.

Fadoua Community Leader May 08, 2021

Aha I will definitely share this page's link with our Scrummaster it is worth the try! Thank you for sharing @Kristen Roth !

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Kristen Roth Community Manager May 10, 2021

Great, @Fadoua ! I hope you enjoy the Play!

G subramanyam Community Leader May 10, 2021

Wow @Kristen Roth this is something I need to explore in team playbook! I had used 4 L's retrospectives and use to document in Confluence tool.

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Kristen Roth Community Manager May 10, 2021

Both tools work well but Trello will give you a new look if you'd like to change it up! 😉

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G subramanyam Community Leader May 11, 2021

I will check with my management if they allow me to use Trello.

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@Kristen Roth  Thank you! 

As I understood it's extended retro meeting with more classification query? 

Just curious how longer is starting to be meeting agains scrum retro?

Kristen Roth Community Manager May 11, 2021

You bet, @Gonchik Tsymzhitov !

It doesn't necessarily have to be a longer meeting or an extended version of the traditional retro - think of this format as a different way to frame your thinking. Looking back at your work through the lens of the 4Ls means looking back with a different perspective, which can really switch up your team's thinking and open up new insights!

Sudarshan Community Leader May 13, 2021

I would prefer doing this once a month (for a 2 week sprint) - this is my call, but seriously there are no rules :) 

4L is like a time travel in a different dimension (a personal call).

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Kristen Roth Community Manager May 20, 2021

You can make the rules, @Sudarshan ! wink

Yes! As a marketing department, we try to make retrospectives after big campaigns to implement improvements for the next ones. Using these questions might be a good approach to it.

-copying and pasting them into our retrospective templates- lol


Thanks again @Kristen Roth😎

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I finally got the chance to implement a similar approach to this proposal, mixing it with what we had in the past.

Basically, I adapted the 4L's into a Confluence template, and a couple of days before the meeting, I shared it with the team so they could reflect on it; this is how the template looks like (it is in Spanish):


I must say, implementing most of the practices reflected on the Playbook and your post made the retrospective run smoother, organized, and, more importantly, allowed us to establish concrete work items to implement for following campaigns/sprints.

Thank you, @Kristen Roth.😎

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Kristen Roth Community Manager Aug 25, 2021

This is so great to hear! And I love the look of your Confluence template! Thank you for sharing, @Huwen Arnone -DEISER- !

Caroline R Atlassian Team Jul 26, 2021

Really great idea! Thanks for sharing this! 

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Ajay _view26_ Community Leader Jul 30, 2021

This is great! I suppose a slight change from the usual questions would definitely make a difference in some way or the other. PS: Trello does change things up :D 

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Kristen Roth Community Manager Aug 02, 2021

A little change is always good! 

Like Ajay _view26_ likes this

I don't think there are enough people doing this sort of thing regularly enough - so it is great to have an alternative spin on it

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@Kristen Roth - We had similar retrospectives using another tool - and having sections like - What went well, What didn't go as expected, What we should we start doing, What should we stop doing and Action Items.



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Hi @Kristen Roth ,


Really very nice idea.. Wonderful. Thanks a lot for sharing this.




We use the 4 L's in our 'Lessons Learnt' sessions after a project has finished, we set up the board prior to the meeting and everyone involved adds cards to it.

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Tina Behers Community Leader Oct 19, 2021

Love it!  New tools/tips for Retrospectives are always great! 

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Love it!

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Srinatha T Atlassian Team Mar 30, 2022

I liked the idea. 

Like Kristen Roth likes this

This seems useful.

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Thanks @Kristen Roth , this seems an interesting and useful approach! I will try it!

I have been asked recently at work what projects I would like to do and this really left me stumped! I am so used to doing whatever is asked of me, not really having a choice. I like this idea of exploring the 4 L's to understand what I like and what I am avoiding.


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