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.

What is the 4Ls retrospective?

Difficulty Level

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 team retrospective? Are you looking for a simple but powerful retrospective template that will help your team grow?

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

The 4Ls model, used as a 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!

The 4 elements of the 4Ls retrospective

Things you really enjoyed.
e.g., our CEO congratulated us on our latest feature release.
Things you have learned.
e.g., we should always ask for our Product Marketing team's help when crafting a Product release note.
Things the team missed.
e.g., we missed some SEO expertise to efficiently address our homepage redesign.
Longed for
Something you wished for.
e.g., spend more time doing backlog refinement all together.

Why & when should you use the 4Ls template?

As we mentioned, the 4Ls retrospective 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 this facilitation technique for recurring 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 might be a great fit.

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

Many teams actually run the 4Ls 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 technique 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 template.

How to run the 4Ls retrospective?

The 4Ls technique was designed to give a high level of flexibility to your retrospectives.

You can try the 4Ls model with your team for free by signing up for Neatro. No credit card is required. Note that participants do not need to create accounts to join a retrospective with Neatro.

Although we use the Neatro experience to show how to run the 4Ls retrospective online, you can follow this guide and apply our tips for any other tool.

Step 1: Write comments
Let people write ideas and avoid groupthink.

Let's consider that you have already run an Icebreaker with your team and have done a follow-up on the action items from the last retrospective. Your team is now ready to start the 4Ls activity.

This first step aims to let the participants write comments and post them in the different columns of your board.

⏱️ Make sure you start a Timer. Keeping track of time is a simple but crucial tip to ensure your team will successfully run an efficient retrospective.

Each column of your board helps you organize your ideas. Even if you are the facilitator of this retrospective, you will most likely take on the participant's role as well, right? Try to be as specific as possible so that your teammates can easily understand your comments.

To provide an appropriate level of psychological security, allow participants to share comments anonymously.

At this stage, you want to avoid group thinking at all costs. People should not influence each other in the process. Make sure people cannot see what other participants are writing in this step.

Reveal all comments after everyone has finished adding comments.

👍 With Neatro – Participants will only see their own comments at this step. They also have the option of writing comments using their name or anonymously. As a Facilitator, you will be able to set a Timer visible to everybody. Also, when a participant is done writing comments, he/she can click on “I’m finished” to let everybody know he/she’s ready to move on to the next step.

Step 2: Group comments
Get your board lean and well organized

This step allows you to regroup similar comments and attach/create topics.

1/ Drag and Drop Grouping

You might have a lot of comments displayed on the board at this point. Regroup similar comments to help your teammates understand the weight of each idea.

👍 With Neatro – If you find similar ideas, drag a comment on another to create a group. Click on the group to display all of the comments.

2/ Use topics to better identify your challenges

Regrouping similar comments is not enough! Adding topics will significantly help you organize your team's ideas.

"What's a topic?" you may ask. It could be anything. We usually tend to see "core team dimensions" reflected in the topics (e.g., Ownership, Value, Speed, Process, Collaboration, etc.). Still, you could create any topic that would help you efficiently manage your team's comments.

👍 With Neatro – To add a topic to any comment on Neatro, click on the "Add Topic" button. We already created 10 Neatro topics for you based on the most common team challenges, but you can also create your own topics.

Step 3: Vote
Time to prioritize items to focus on what really matters

Time to prioritize items to focus on what really matters.

Proceed to a vote session to narrow down the number of items you would like to discuss in the next phase.

Two rules that we heavily suggest to apply at this step:

- Make sure that nobody can see the other's votes.

- Allow each participant to spend their votes on one or multiple items.

👍 With Neatro – The number of votes can easily be changed if needed. The Facilitator needs to click on the wheel icon to update the maximum number of votes per person.

Step 4: Build your Team Action Plan
Collectively define what needs to be done to make the team grow

Collectively define what needs to be done to make the team grow.

Discuss the most voted topics or comments with your team to create action items.

Assign an owner to each action item, and provide a short and clear description so everyone can understand how to resolve their action items.

👍 With Neatro – You can play out with a collection of sorting rules and filters to better identify the comments that need to be discussed. Once you're done with the Action Plan, you can access your retrospective report.

Discover Neatro's retrospective templates

The Rock Band
The Zombie Apocalypse
What Did You Learn?
From Canada, with Love
The Learning Matrix
Retro Football Club
The Sailboat
Start Stop Continue
The Appreciation Game
Pros and Cons
Keep Drop Start
The Genie in a bottle
The 4Ls
What Went Well
The End-of-Year Retro
Glad Sad Mad