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Design retrospective - avoid misunderstandings in communication

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First of all: You want variety and fun develop your team in retrospectives? Then here to our software tool for measurably good retros:

Correctly designing retrospectives is particularly important when working in a team, as they offer an optimal basis for exchange within the team, but at the same time are not a sure-fire success. Communication between the participants is a particularly important aspect.

Just recently I had a private situation in which I noticed how quickly you can misunderstand.
A friend of mine, Ben, had borrowed a charging cable from me, which belongs to another friend, Leon. When I wanted to give it back to Leon, I asked my friend Ben if he could bring it over to me. He just couldn't and offered to give it directly to Leon. Since I wanted to hand it over myself, I said to him: “No, everything's fine, you don't need that. Just give it to me when. ”

The next day came the message from Ben: "I threw it into Leon's mailbox." And I wondered what that should do, since I & #8211; in my opinion & #8211; had expressly said that he should give it to me directly.

And the moral of the story: Ben just wanted to do me a favor and thought I said that so as not to bother him.

This shows that there can be different interpretations in communication and misunderstandings can arise. 
For this reason in particular, it is essential to design retrospectives in such a way that they uncover misunderstandings from everyday life and create them by creating common ones mental models even avoided in advance in order to be able to act efficiently as a team.

In teams where several participants communicate via different channels such as email, phone or messenger like Slack & Co., the potential of misunderstandings can quickly increase. The retrospective creates a protected space to bring the team back to a stand. This is why retrospectives are particularly relevant in such teams.

Create retrospective Success factor for communication


But what is the definition of a retrospective? Basically, a retrospective can be defined as follows: A retrospective is a regular meeting of a team to illuminate the past work steps and, based on them, to derive suggestions for improvement for future cooperation. You can find more details in our FAQ read about it.


And how is a retrospective structured? Of course, the design of the retrospective has to be adapted to the respective needs of the team, but there is still a certain basic structure or retrospective methods that should be used.

There are several askThat should be kept in mind in a retrospective in order to optimize the work process, improve communication and avoid misunderstandings, or at least uncover them:

  1. What have we done so well that we have to talk about it so as not to forget it?
  2. What insights have we gained?
  3. What will we have to do differently in the future?
  4. What have we not understood?

Phases to design your retrospective 


Basically, retrospectives can be divided into several phases split, which are divided as illustrated in the figure:


Retrospektiven gestalten


Now you're wondering what exactly that should tell you? Of course, we will tell you this and how you can design your retrospective below!


  • Intro: The intro includes greeting and capturing the current mood. This can be done, for example, via a short check-in, in which everyone reports on how he or she is currently doing.
  • Data collection: In the data collection you should collect information that enables you to assess your cooperation. These can be objective facts as well as your personal impressions. 
  • Gaining insight: This is about determining the causes. Why is something going well or not going well? The above questions can help you. 
  • Determine measures: In this phase, concrete steps should be decided, responsibilities distributed and a time schedule determined.
  • Conclusion: At the end you should evaluate the retrospective yourself and give feedback on it. This will help you optimize the next retrospectives. Here you can our Team retrospective tool may be helpful. Cooperation is reflected on with targeted items and a common consensus is created. 

Avoid misunderstandings in communication


Let's go back to my initial story: What do misunderstandings and communication have to do with the design of retrospective methods?



As you can easily see from the phases and relevant questions, designing retrospectives depends on communicating with each other and working on common processes. As in other everyday situations, this can lead to misunderstandings. Therefore, it makes sense to take a look at communication models to raise awareness of the causes of misunderstandings.



Basically, it is relevant to remember that every statement 4 pages (see Schulz von Thun, 1981) has:



The communication square & #8211; a very well-known communication model & #8211; helps to understand why so many interpretations of a supposedly clear statement are possible.
If you take this into account in the retrospectives, you will surely be able to quickly uncover why there have been some misunderstandings in the past work.

Especially in the agile world of work, it is important that successful communication takes place so that you can meet the dynamic requirements of VUCA World can react promptly and appropriately.

Design the communication square for the retrospective


Always try to learn to not just accept statements made in all phases of the retrospective. Instead, questions and considers all four sides of the communication square. Ask for so long and paraphrase your counterpart's statement (so summarize it in your own words) to see if you mean the same thing.



In the beginning this will surely seem strange to you at first. Over time, however, you will notice that misunderstandings can be avoided and uncovered and processes run more smoothly.


Design Echometer as support for the retrospective


At Echometer, we understand how to transform TeamWork and promote it in the long term. With the help of psychological know-how and ours Team retrospective tool We have developed for teams like your optimally tailored items that ensure that you ask the right questions and come to a common denominator in order to optimize your communication and avoid misunderstandings.



Friedemann Schulz von Thun: Talking to Each Other 1 - Disruptions and Clarifications. General psychology of communication, Rowohlt, Reinbek 1981, ISBN 3-499-17489-8



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Christian Heidemeyer, Psychologist & Scrum Master