Top 5

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Expose the most pressing issues in an initially anonymous manner and determine the most effective actions to resolve them.

Length of time:

Approximately 45 minutes depending on the size of the team.

Short Description:

The facilitator asks participants to bring along their top five issues which are then grouped and in pairs the participants create actions to resolve them them before voting on the top actions which are taken away.


Whiteboard or flipchart paper & pens.


Before the retrospective provide participants with a simple Word document template and ask them to identify their top 5 issues (one per template) and for each issue suggest as many solutions as possible. The template is to ensure participants can be as anonymous as possible.

  1. Collect all the print-outs, spread them on the table and ask the team to group relevant issues.
  2. Ask for a title for each group, create a column for each one on a whiteboard (or flip chart sheets stuck to the wall) and place the associated print outs on the floor below.
  3. Get participants to form pairs (preferably with someone they don’t normally work too closely with) and give them three minutes with each column to come up with as many actions as they can and to write them in the column. Pairs are able to refer to the print outs and previous pairs’ actions for inspiration.
  4. After three minutes pairs move on to another column until all are exhausted.
  5. Go through all the actions so all participants are aware of them all.
  6. Give each participant three votes and ask them to choose their favourite actions (can use votes however they wish e.g. 3 on one action).
  7. Identify the most popular actions and ask for volunteers to own them. Make it clear it will be their responsibility to ensure they get completed before the next retrospective (tip: don’t choose too many actions and definitely no more than one action per participant).
  8. As with all retrospective output I find the best way to ensure they get actioned is to stick them up on the wall somewhere everyone can see.

Source: Rob Bowley 1