What is a Mad Sad Glad retrospective?

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The mad sad glad retrospective frames discussion around the emotional journey of by your team during the previous sprint, and is a great way to identify opportunities to improve team morale and job satisfaction. The retrospective asks participants to share what made them feel frustrated or annoyed (mad), disappointed (sad) and what made them feel happy or proud (glad).

This mad sad glad style retrospective encourages your team to be more emotionally-aware to help build a positive team dynamic, and provides an opportunity to reflect on issues and opportunities from a different perspective. It is important you remember the retrospective prime directive and focus on events, behaviours and processes – not on assigning blame or ‘guilting’ individuals.

Example Mad Sad Glad Retrospective

Mad – List the things that are driving you crazy. What is stopping you from performing at your best?

Sad – What are some of the things that have disappointed you or that you wished could be improved?

Glad – What makes you happy when you think about this project? What are the elements that you enjoy the most?

Suggested Icebreaker questions for Mad, Sad, Glad Retrospectives

  • Right now, are you mad, sad, or glad?
  • Would you rather be sad or mad?
  • What’s made you feel glad recently?

Retro Rehearsal

Invite your team to rehearse the retro referencing something they’ve recently seen.

For example, thinking about your last holiday, what made you feel mad, sad or glad?

Facilitation tips for Mad, Sad Glad Retrospectives

  • Give people the time and space to open up and share. And, as long as they are not making derogatory remarks and understand the no-blame principal, then each idea should be discussed.
  • Don’t try and solve the problems on the spot. It is not always possible and some problems may not actually be fix-able. The goal is simply to work through the issues and then look for solutions afterwards to report back at the next meeting.
  • Frequent retrospectives can be better than infrequent deep post-mortems. Rather than running a post-mortem, consider running your retrospectives frequently so you can quickly make changes before it’s too late. Much like steering a big ship, it’s a lot easier to make small changes en route to the destination, rather than finding out at the end you have docked in the wrong port.
  • Anonymous or named? Given that mad sad glad is all about sharing how people feel, there are some pros and cons to anonymity:
  • Anonymous brainstorming – If you have a positive team dynamic, reasonable maturity and and team communication skills – anonymity is a great way to provide people a safe space to share. By being anonymous, it might draw out something in the project that would otherwise remain hidden beneath the surface. The drawback of anonymity is that it gives people the opportunity to say what they want, play the political game or be insensitive.  For the seasoned facilitator who can deal with this, however, the anonymous option can provide invaluable insights.
  • Non-anonymous brainstorming – by having names attached to comments,  it increases accountability and also means that it automatically starts to moderate the ideas suggested. This will require team members to have a certain level of built trust and courage to say that is on their mind but might reduce the likelihood that the truth may be hidden because of fear of being pinpointed.
  • Think of your current team culture and how you think they might react to a mad, sad glad retrospective? If you think you can manage the social risk by setting the right tone, have a team that is relatively respectful and collaborative and focused on solutions, not blame – then anonymous brainstorming is what we would recommend.

Running a Mad Sad Glad retrospective

Start Agile Retrospective

Start your retrospective in a click
Log into TeamRetro and choose your sprint retrospective template.

Invite Your Team
Invite your team easily – no separate accounts needed
Send an email invite, a link or add to your Slack channel to get people started quickly. SSO options are also available.
Agile Retrospective Brainstorm
Time to brainstorm
Each team member can now brainstorm individually under each topic. This avoids group think and allows everyone to have their say. They can indicate when they have finished, or you can set a timer so that you know when to move onto the next stage.
Grouping of ideas after brainstorming in a retrospective meeting
Group related ideas
Drag and drop  related ideas to combine them for easier voting. TeamRetro can also automatically suggest ideas that are similar, saving you and your team valuable time.
Grouping of ideas after brainstorming in a retrospective meeting
Vote independently to avoid anchoring
Each team member votes on what they would most like to discuss further. The results won’t be displayed to everyone until you advance to Discuss.
Grouping of ideas after brainstorming in a retrospective meeting

Discuss the most important things first
You and your team discuss the top voted ideas and can capture deep dive comments.  Presentation mode allows you to walk your team through ideas one-by-one and keep the conversation focused.

Grouping of ideas after brainstorming in a retrospective meeting

Review and create actions

Easily facilitate discussion by bringing everyone onto the same page. Create action items, assign owners and due dates that will carry through for review at the next retrospective.

Grouping of ideas after brainstorming in a retrospective meeting

Share the results
Once you have finished your retro, you can share the results and actions with the team. Your retro will be stored so you can revisit them as needed.

Congratulations! You’ve just run a retro like a boss.
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