War Stories retrospective

Sprint retrospective idea – Share learnings and stories around a virtual campfire.

What is the War Stories retrospective?

While every sprint cycle should not feel like a battle, sometimes they can. This retro format offers a way for teams to share stories and forge strategies. With the troops aligned and the sprint goals set, the War Stories retrospective lets you create a simple and easy format for people to yarn. The analogy is simple and can be used when there has been some progressively tough cycles and there is a need to provide a way for tension to be released and issues to be solved together in a unified way.

War Stories retrospective format


Where did we experience success and wins? These are important no matter how small , especially during tough times. Resilience is an important virtue and there are always aspects that can be considered as victories during the last sprint that help to motivate the team and lift morale.


Where did we fail and learn? Make this aspect a positive learning experience by building in psychological safety and a non-judgemental environment. It may sound odd, but celebrating learnings from failure builds team confidence. The defeats are a good point of reflection and acts like the lessons learned aspect of the journey.

Still Fighting

Where are there still battles? These are the areas that can be addressed together by the team or used to acknowledge where there are still impediments.

Training Camp

How could we improve in future battles? Help the team build resilience and capability by identifying areas where they can level up and improve going forward. These might be personal aspects of upskilling, mind set, training, reorganizing the troops or getting more resources for the team.

Suggested Icebreaker questions for War Stories retrospective

  • What did you last do that felt like a battle?
  • Who would you go into battle for and why?
  • What situation wounded you?

Retro Rehearsal

Invite your team to rehearse the retro referencing a sports match.

For example, check out this bubble soccer video

  • What victories and defeats did you witness?
  • What battles were still raging?
  • Where was training needed?

Ideas and tips for your War Stories retrospective 

  • Set the stage. Welcome people to set the tone of the meeting and give them a safe space to share ideas. A great way to do this is to ask “Can we begin now?” and waiting for people to begin.

  • Running a remote team retrospective? Why not set up a virtual campfire with a fun creative background that simulates this.

  • Take turns going around the campfire to let each person share. This will help build relationships and give people equal time to share.

  • Use the concepts of brainwriting – give people “silent time” to write, read and respond to what is being presented. It might just be a minute that can make all the difference.

  • Use the way teams vote to manage culture. You’ll get interesting insights when people vote individually. The last thing you want is the sheep mentality where people simply follow what has already been done.

  • A thank you goes a long way. Give a shout out to the team at the end of the meeting.

  • In face to face meetings, doing things digitally allows you to collect ideas, vote and comment anonymously, and saves manual collation. If running your meeting digitally, use a video conferencing tool to give that personal touch.

  • Rotate the role of facilitator. Changing the role can break the routine.

How to run a War Stories Retrospective in TeamRetro

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.
Want more? Read on.