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  2. Running a Retrospective

How to facilitate a column-based retrospective with Retrium

From the Think phase to Wrap Up, find out how to use Retrium for your retrospectives.

This article applies to:

All plans

All roles

The most traditional and well-known style of a retrospective is one where team members write sticky notes within labeled columns. If you are new to retrospectives, we recommend trying this type of retrospective first and then running it at the end of each sprint.

Please see this article if you'll be participating in a retrospective but not facilitating.

πŸ’‘ You can go back a phase at any time during the retrospective if you need to return to a previous phase.

Retrospective Phases in Retrium

  1. Think
  2. Group
  3. Vote
  4. Discuss
  5. Wrap Up

Think Phase

Once you begin, you (the facilitator) will have the opportunity to modify column titles and descriptions. Whether your team is new to agile or just new to a technique, ensure that your team understands what each column title and description encompasses.

You can modify the column titles and descriptions to help your team better align on which ideas to share in each column, setting the stage for a productive and meaningful discussion.

During the Think phase, everyone has a chance to share their thoughts. Participants can click Create a note under each column to add as many notes as they want.


Note during the Think phase that:

  • You'll be able to see your own notes, but participants' notes will be blurred out. This is to minimize groupthink and allow everyone to brainstorm without the influence of others.

  • You can choose to reveal the notes for collaborative brainstorming if you wish before progressing to the next phase.
  • When the team is ready to move on, click the orange arrow in the bottom nav bar to move to the Group phase. 

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Group Phase

As part of the Group phase, participants will drag and drop notes that fit together into themes or topics they want to discuss together. Add titles to card groups to help stay organized. You can choose to group silently or out loud together.

πŸ’‘ Grouping is collaborative, so everyone in the retro can group cards and add group names. If you have a larger group, you may wish to designate one or two participants to do the grouping.

To group cards during this phase:

  1. Click and drag a card to the desired location. The dots on the side of the card indicate that the card can be moved. As a card is moved, it will become opaque until the card is released in its new location.
  2. You can give grouped cards a title to capture the collective thought behind the group. Click on the words Group Title and rename as desired. 


When the team is ready to move on, click the orange arrow in the bottom nav bar to move to the Vote phase.

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Vote Phase

The Vote phase utilizes dot voting. Each person will get the same number of votes and can select how they would like to distribute their votes among the topics (grouped cards or individual cards) on the board.

The number of votes each participant receives for the retrospective is calculated by Retrium based on the best practices formula from Agile retrospective experts. The number of votes for each person is equal to the square root of the total number of topics (grouped or individual) in that particular retrospective. For example, the square root of 16 possible topics for discussion = four votes per person.

This means that the number of votes will change from retrospective to retrospective, depending on the number of topics available to discuss.

πŸ’‘ Anyone in the retrospective can opt out of voting by clicking the Abstain button at the top of the screen. This can be used as the facilitator if you feel you don’t want to influence the vote or by participants who don’t have enough information to contribute to the voting phase.


To vote during this phase:

  1. Add your votes using the (plus) icon above the topic.
  2. You can remove your votes by hovering over the dot vote and clicking the X.

When the team is ready to move on, click the orange arrow in the bottom nav bar to move to the Discuss phase.

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Discuss Phase

When entering the Discuss phase, the topics will no longer appear in columns, but instead, the topic with the most votes will appear for discussion first.

πŸ’‘ We recommend using the timer during the Discuss phase to help keep the team on track. You can set the timer during any phase by clicking on the timer (stopwatch) icon at the bottom of the screen.

During the discussion, anyone can add action items by clicking + Add an action item in the upper right-hand corner of the page. You can also add an Ambassador to be responsible for any action item.


πŸ’‘ What makes a great Action Item? We recommend adding the name of the person responsible, the task, and the due date.

For more tips, tricks, and guidance on how to make a great action item, check out our Ultimate Guide to Agile Retrospectives - Action Items.

Some things to note for the Discuss phase:

  • The topics are automatically ordered based on the number of votes (from most to least), and the team can choose how many they would like to discuss.
  • After your retrospective, you can review action items on the Team Room Home tab and in the Team Room History tab.
  • When the team is ready to move on, click the orange arrow in the bottom nav bar to move to the Wrap Up phase.

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Wrap Up Phase

The Wrap Up phase is intended for participants to rate the retro they just completed. Participants will have one vote to cast a rating on a scale of 1-5, answering the question, "Was this retro worth our time?" These votes are anonymous.

πŸ’‘ Rating something a three is not bad. If something is worth your time, that's a breakeven point and leaves room for improvement! 


When everyone has completed voting, you can reveal the results to see the average score and a list of recommendations for what to do with this information. These results are also stored in the Team Room History tab, making it easy to view changes over time.  

There are also a number of actions that can be taken after a retro has been completed; click here to learn more!

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Check out The Ultimate Guide to Agile Retrospectives for advice on running engaging retrospectives. And don't hesitate to contact us if there's anything we can do to help!