Retrospectives series: Heaven and Hell

This is the second article of the retrospective series, I hope you enjoy it, find it useful and can apply it with your team soon. Please, leave some feedback when this actually happens!

This retrospective is titled “Heaven and Hell”, soon you will learn why…


This is a good retrospective format for teams who are either about to start a new project or going through the first stages of it. It’s not as powerful in the later stages of a project, but as usual your mileage may vary. Last year, while studying ORSC (Organizational and Relationship Systems Coaching ) I came up with this retrospective format, mixing some concepts from that course and other ideas from my own toolbox.


60-90 minutes should be enough for a 7 people team


In this retrospective format, the facilitator guides the team across the best and worst possible future scenario for the team. You will help the team taking actions to reach their heaven and avoid moving towards their hell.


As a facilitator you are encouraged to help the team jump into the metaphor, so any help through visual and auditive channels will help on this purpose. I have tested drawing images from hell and heaven on a whiteboard, but obviously any graphical, auditive, multimedia or even atrezzo you might come up with will be really useful in that sense. Remember that using different channels makes metaphors more powerful, but learn the limits of your team and the depth of the conflict you are dealing with.



This retrospective format will be more useful if you start the session with an exercise of team recognition, it will create a gratefulness environment which will boost the results in the next stages. For instance, every team member is asked to think about what good things his colleagues have done in the last period. Write each thing in a different sticky note. After some thinking and writing time, have each one of them speaking out the rewards he wrote, and show them in any visible board. This board can be kept around the work are during the next sprint.


Tell the team to think for some minutes in silence on the future they aspire to as a team.

– What would be heaven for that team? What elements should be in place? What should we be doing?

Give them some time to think and write.

– What would be this team’s hell? What should be happening so that we notice that we are “burning alive”?

Again, give them some time to think. Needless to say it might help to ask them to think in terms of opposites with what they had proposed in the previous step. At this point you don’t need to offer them so much time, not only because they will come up with counter-examples of dreams, but also because it is more productive to keep them in a “dreaming” mindset than in a “nightmare” one. The feelings that arise when dreaming are positive and boost ideas and creativity,  unlike the ones coming from nightmares.


Invite everyone to explain their points, and if you used any physical space for describing heaven and hell, have them post the ideas in the right place.

Then have them cluster the situations they initially described, because some of the concepts might be very concrete and others might be very open. As a facilitator, at this moment you want the team to name their dreams together, so you need to help them bringing all their dreams and nightmares to a common ground.


Help them define actions to move to their heaven, and try to guide them as much as possible through the heaven actions. However, lead them to agree in, at least, one action to try to avoid their hell.

Previous articles in the series:

1.- Le tour de France

Retrospectives series: Heaven and Hell

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