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The 4Ls Retrospective Template

Liked, learned, lacked, and longed for. Four simple words to dig into both the positive and negative aspects of your last Sprint with this simple retrospective template.
The 4Ls Retrospective Template

What is the 4 L's retrospective template?

Facilitating Agile retrospectives is no easy job, especially in a remote work context.

Are you a Scrum Master, an Agile Coach, or simply a team member willing to facilitate your next Sprint retrospective? Are you looking for a simple but powerful retrospective idea that will help your team grow?

Well, search no more! The 4Ls Retrospective template (or Four Ls) is a very popular and versatile retrospective technique used by many Agile teams all over the world.

The 4Ls template, used as a Sprint retrospective technique, is a great way for your team to gather information and reflect on past behaviors and events.

With this activity, your team discussions will be divided into four different columns. Oh, by the way, the Ls stand for Liked, Learned, Lacked, and Longed for.

Let’s see how your team could generate fruitful insights, thanks to the 4Ls!

4Ls Retrospective Template Board in Neatro

How does the 4 Ls retrospective format work?

In the world of Agile retrospectives, the 4L's template stands out for its simplicity and its effectiveness. Let's delve into the four retrospective questions that structure this technique:

The Liked Question from the 4 Ls Retrospective Template
Liked
Things you really enjoyed.

The question "What did you like?" is all about celebrating the positives. Here, your team reflects on things they genuinely enjoyed during the Sprint or a specific period. It could range from achievements and recognitions to positive gestures or successful project milestones. For instance, the satisfaction of a flawless feature release.

The Learned Question from the 4 Ls Retrospective Template
Learned
Things you have learned.

The "What did your learn?" question is dedicated to the acquisition of knowledge and insights. This section is a platform for the team to share newfound understandings and discoveries. It might encompass lessons learned from challenges faced or realizations that could enhance future processes. An example could be recognizing the importance of involving the Product Marketing team in crafting product release notes for a more comprehensive and impactful communication strategy.

The Lacked Question from the 4 Ls Retrospective Template
Lacked
Things the team missed.

With the "What did we miss?" question, the team addresses the aspects where they felt a void or deficiency. This could include skills, resources, or support that was absent but crucial for optimal performance. An illustration might be the absence of SEO expertise when tackling a homepage redesign, underscoring the need for specialized skills in certain projects.

The Longed for Question from the 4 Ls Retrospective Template
Longed for
Something you wished for.

The question "What did you longe for?" gives voice to the team's aspirations and desires. It serves as a space to express wishes for improvements or changes that could contribute to a more positive working environment. For example, expressing a collective desire to spend more time on backlog refinement together, fostering collaboration and synergy among team members.

The four questions of the 4L's retrospective template create a structured framework to facilitate open and constructive discussions that pave the way for continuous improvement within Agile teams.

Why is the 4 L’s retrospective template so effective?

As we mentioned, the 4Ls retrospective idea is super easy to set up. This quality could give you a considerable number of occasions where this template would help you gather remarkable insights.

Of course, you could select the 4 L’s retrospective template for recurring Sprint retrospectives - many Scrum Masters do it!

But let’s say your team runs frequent retrospectives with the same model, over and over again. If you want to bring fresh perspectives to your next retrospective without having to spend too much time preparing for the activity, the 4Ls retrospective might be a great fit.

The great versatility of the 4Ls retrospective could also allow you to use this template outside of retrospective meetings.

Many Agile teams actually run the 4Ls retrospective template to conduct an event post-mortem (such as a conference) to gather feedback from the public and the event’s management committee. If you’re working on projects with external actors (e.g., agencies, consultants), think about shaping your next project post-mortem with the 4Ls method.

You could also use the 4Ls retrospective idea as a self-evaluation to review your personal performance.

Simply put, any activity made to foster continuous improvement (for a team, the people behind a project or an event, or just for yourself) could definitely be efficiently run with the 4Ls retrospective template.

Icebreaker question examples for the 4 L’s retrospective template

Launching into a retrospective session can sometimes be met with the challenge of breaking the ice and setting the tone for open and engaging discussions. 

Incorporating icebreaker questions before using the 4 L’s retro template can inject a dose of energy and encourage team members to share their thoughts more freely. Here are some icebreaker question examples to kickstart your next Sprint retrospective:

  • What is your idea of a perfect vacation?

  • What sport would you compete in if you were in the Olympics?

  • What won't today's kids understand about challenges we had when we were young?

  • Which movie do you think should have a sequel?

  • Why did you choose this career?

  • Which day would you relive over and over again if you could?

  • What book do you wish you could read for the first time again?

If you're feeling uncertain about whether these questions resonate with your team, we encourage you to explore additional icebreaker questions or consider alternative activities, such as the classic "Two Truths and a Lie.

Remember: discovering the perfect fit for your team's dynamic is key to fostering an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing and reflecting during the 4 L's retro activity.

Happy retrospective!

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