Glad, Sad, Mad

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A basic, “no gimmicks” retrospective plan, with a slight lean towards breadth over depth in terms of discussing issues.

Length of time:

Up to 60 minutes.

Short Description:

Issues, changes or observations made during a sprint are listed by all participants and then categorized as either Glad, Sad or Mad. These broadly represent positive notes about the sprint/team, negative notes about the sprint/team, and “gripes” (which are often more broad than just actions of the team), respectively. Participants then vote on the issues to be discussed and the issues are then discussed from highest to lowest number of votes until all issues have been discussed or there is no time remaining.


Index cards, flipchart/whiteboard, pens


The participants each separately write notes on observations they have made regarding the previous sprint. These notes should be brief and written on small index cards. Examples might be “Renderer optimization completed ahead of schedule” or “JIRA task descriptions are not very clear”. The notes can be on good or bad observations. They can reflect changes in this sprint or a persistent issue. Importantly, they should not be limited to only actions of the team members. For example, an observation might be “Still waiting for IT to grant access to the shared folder”. This activity is time-boxed to 10 or 15 minutes.

The next step is that participants each in turn describe their cards and place each card on the whiteboard. The description of each card should be very brief; only enough so that the teammembers understand the meaning of the card. Furthermore, teammembers must not interrupt except to ask for further clarification (i.e. there should be no acceptance or rejection of ideas at this stage).

The whiteboard is divided into 3 columns titled Glad, Sad and Mad (alternatively, smilies can be used), and each note must be placed into one of the columns based on how that observation makes the person feel. Obviously Sad and Mad both cover negative issues, the distinction is useful however because the “Mad” column encourages team members to think of issues that may be external to the team, but which nonetheless impacted the sprint. Even an issue as apparently off-topic as difficulty finding a parking space in the morning, could be something that affects many team members and could potentially be actioned. Placing cards on the board should be timeboxed to 10 or 15 minutes.

The cards are then grouped; issues which essentially refer to the same thing are moved physically together, which should take less than 5 minutes. A single person must take responsibility for performing this grouping.

The next step is that all participants vote on which (grouped) issues to discuss further. The quickest way to perform this vote is that each person marks the cards that they wish to discuss, for example with a circle, and every person can only mark so many cards. A typical limit is 5 cards. This voting can be performed in parallel, so less than 10 minutes should be adequate.

Finally, the “chair” of the retrospective (often the Scrummaster), leads a discussion of the issues in descending order of number of votes. At this point participants can agree or disagree with the observation, but the discussion should primarily be focused on actions that can be performed in the next sprint. Even in the case of “Glad” issues, there may be actions that could build on that success. The discussion ends when the 1 hour is up, or all issues have been discussed (whichever happens first).


This is a popular retrospective format and the original source is unknown.