Remote Team Retrospectives For Happier Teams

Last week, the Happy Melly Team had a team retrospectiveremotely, of course.

We recently changed the way we organize ourselves–from a team of nine that met regularly to splitting into four different crews that met at different times. We did this because we need to scale, and even though we’re a happy team, we definitely had growing pains.

Things were confusing at first as we all adjusted our schedules and focus. Before, the whole team met two or three times a week. Now, some of us don’t get to see each other because we are not on the same crews. Amidst all the change, we started to feel more distant from each other. And since we were due for a retrospective, it seemed like a no-brainer to get that scheduled.

We used Retrium, a tool for remote retrospectives because of a recent interview I had with the founder, David Horowitz. We used the Mad-Sad-Glad format for the retrospective because it was more emotion based, and I felt it was appropriate for what the team was going through.

I logged on ten minutes early and tempted everyone to join me with pictures of cute kittens. Within seconds, Anja logged in with wide eyes and asked “Did you say cute kittens?” and the others followed close behind. We spent a few minutes ogling kittens, and then got started by first pressing record (for those who couldn’t make it), and then defining what Mad, Sad, and Glad meant to us.

Kitten ogling

After we got our definitions straight, we had a ten-minute silent brainstorming session (with everyone on mute) where we added cards in Retrium to each of the mad, sad, and glad categories. What I liked about using Retrium is that it hides what others are posting until after the brainstorming session. This is so that people don’t influence each other with their answers.

Retrospectives Silent Brainstorm

After everyone was done, I made all the cards visible to the team. Everyone received five votes for topics they wanted to discuss. Votes could be distributed in any way. For example, you could put all five of your votes on one topic.

Mad Sad Glad Retrospective Retrium

Retrium then tallied the votes and placed the topics in a line from most to least popular. We discussed the topics one by one until we ran out of time. At one point, we took a three-minute break for a quick virtual dance party (hosted by the rad DJ Chad) and then got back to the discussion. It was a great reminder that taking a short physical break is surprisingly invigorating.

Retrospective Virtual Team Dance

By the end of our hour, it felt like certain tensions had dissipated, and that there was cohesion again.

The retrospective we had was JUST what I needed to feel re-motivated with this project – Jennifer Riggins

Doing this retrospective reinforced for me the power of the process. Of course there will be bumps in the road when we work together on a big project, but, with regular check-ins, I have no doubt that we can solve the issues that come up and continue to scale our happiness as we grow our team.

Kudos to the team for letting me use a new tool to facilitate the discussion!

If you want to learn more about how to facilitate problem-free online meetings where everyone contributes, sign up for a Work Together Anywhere workshop (available online or in person).

What tools have you used to facilitate retrospectives? Tell us below!Blog Footer


  1. Glad to hear you and your team enjoyed using! In addition to Mad Sad Glad, we also have a few other retrospective techniques, so be sure to check them out 🙂

    Comment by David Horowitz on August 16, 2015 at 1:18 AM

  2. Thanks David! We will definitely be using Retrium again.

    Comment by Lisette Sutherland on August 16, 2015 at 10:07 AM

  3. Thanks David! We will definitely be using Retrium again. It was an enjoyable process.

    Comment by Lisette Sutherland on August 16, 2015 at 10:06 AM

  4. Leave it to Lisette to have her finger on all the coolest tools! Retrium looks like a really awesome one. One question – how long was this meeting (as in minutes?) oh and who is in the US? 🙂

    Comment by Vanessa on August 28, 2015 at 2:40 PM

  5. It took us 1 hour to do the retrospective.

    Comment by Lisette Sutherland on August 28, 2015 at 3:11 PM

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This article is written by Lisette Sutherland on August 12th 2015.

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