Retrospective Kickstarter: Mad Sad Glad Afraid

Retrospective activity: mad sad glad afraid
Retrospective activity: mad sad glad afraid

Goal: helps release a heavy emotional steam and get mentally ready for the meeting.


This is the well-known check-in exercise from the Core Protocols by McCarthy's and the book Software for Your Head.


Being mad, sad, glad, or afraid are the essential, fundamentals emotions we all share. Our feelings can seen as cocktails made out of these four simple ingredients. So teaching your team to share their feelings by using these four emotions is a lesson of mindfulness and self-awareness.


How to run this exercise? Simply write these four emotions on a flip-chart or a white board and ask everyone share what’s on their mind using any combinations of these four elementary emotions. People share in a round-robin manner: one by one. No discussions or comments allowed at this point.


Some people will just say few words, while the others... well if you're lucky this exercise helps people speak up of something unspoken yet deeply present.


But in some occasions, when we all know something serious has happened by no one is speaking about this aloud, this activity can be a real saver. As it helps people unload their mental weight by associating with and then speaking their feelings.  


Like in the situations when there is a big smelly elephant has shitted in the room, when something had happened that is on everyone’s mind, but no one speaks about, like: a very bad customer review, an co-worker has just announced she is leaving the company, our company got acquired by Microsoft (no f**ing way!), or the sprint was very special in some other unusual ways...


I do this exercise every time I sense the team got distracted from our product and teamwork. Usually by something external and uncontrolled.


This exercise, if taken seriously, creates a very deep impact on the atmosphere and opens up the space in the retrospective for deeper thoughtful conversations.


The original instructions of the protocol guides everyone to say "you're welcome" after each person's done sharing. This ritual creates a little ceremony and welcomes people, regardless of  what they feel and think. If this sounds too weird for your team, leave it out or create your own little ceremony fitting the team's culture.


Once the team has "checked in" you as a retrospective facilitator can move onto the context of the recent sprint and focus on process improvements with activities like: Constellations, One Word Retrospective, Last Retro Follow-up or Sprint Timeline.


See the the Retrospective Cheat Sheet for more details on these exercises.

Retrospective Book Plus a Cheat Sheet

"Mad Sad Glad Afraid" is one of the 16 powerful exercises that I've been using most often facilitating different retrospectives: from a single team looking back one sprint to a multi-team group retrospecting a whole many-month release.


Combining these 16 exercises is giving you more than 250 different agendas (should be enough for the next few years!) - so go and get the Retrospective Cheat Sheet together with a mini-book Agile Retrospective Kickstarter that helps you get prepared for your next kicking-ass retrospective.

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Comments: 1
  • #1

    Sandeep Jain (Tuesday, 04 July 2017 19:18)

    Good articulation!!!!!

    Do you believe anonymous sad mad glad or individuals should write their names?