New teams get formed all the time and after they've been together for a short while -- maybe a month, I like to do a retro I call the collective consciousness.

This is a multi-part spin on good/bad/confusing, with grouping and themes intertwined -- and this is from the facilitators perspective.

data/admin/2019/9/collective.png full image

When do I do this?

  • new team, brand new, been together a short while
  • a team that's never done a retro
  • a team that hasn't done a retro in a while (months)

What outcome should you expect?

  • Team issues instead of squeaky wheel
  • Visibility of thoughts, observations, opinions of entire team
    • this allows others to see different perspectives and maybe some surprise
  • 3 actionable items, max. More than 3 becomes too much.


This goes on a whiteboard and the format is easy - 3 different color post it notes, one for good, one for bad, one for confusing. The context should be for a frame of time - maybe a month. Anyone could be called on to "talk more about that" so before I start, I give not-team-related examples for each. Also don't write essays on these notes, just a few words. Oh and feel free to steal these, and they're real too, I'm seriously not happy about my laptop, it was a poor choice.

Something good -> I would write on the note: "New laptops are out!".

  • The next model finally came out this week or the week before. I want one.

Something bad -> I would write "Bad Laptop Choice"

  • The laptop I got was a 15.4 and a 2-in-1. I've really tried to make it work, but it just isn't. It doesn't travel well.

Something confusing -> "Laptop Availability?"

  • I'm not sure when it will be in vendors hands so I can go get one.

Set a timer for 5 minutes, everyone writes things down and puts them on the board. It'll be their instinct to group all the goods together, the bads, the confusing -- they need to be grouped by theme and as the facilitator, start grouping them together. For instance, all the stuff around Laptops would become a group.

Once the 5 minutes is up, everyone brings their items up and ideally helps group them as well (this usually isn't the case). As groups form, I draw bubbles around them and label them.


Once the groups are good enough, I look for an underlying theme. This is a thing I have tried to explain many times before on how to spot but I won't try -- I just know it when I see it and there's always 1. If I think one of the items is THE hot button issue, I'll end on it but otherwise I use my best judgement to make a flow from one item to the next.

I like to have 3 items to work on as a team. Typically these are assigned to someone, sometimes two people, and the expectation is progress is made. Leave them up in an area where people can seem them regularly.