What Is the Mad Sad Glad Retrospective?

If you manage a Scrum team, then you’re familiar with the sprint retrospective ritual. However, you may not be as familiar with the mad sad glad retrospective. In this article, we’re taking a look at this useful tool and showing you how the mad sad framework can help you improve future sprints. 

What is the mad sad glad retrospective?

The mad sad glad retrospective is a format for gathering data during the sprint retrospective ceremony, which is the final ceremony of the Scrum process. During the sprint retrospective, the Scrum team reviews what went down during the previous sprint to determine what can be improved in subsequent sprints. 

It’s a pretty straightforward concept: The mad sad glad retro calls for each team member to consider what events during the previous sprint made them feel mad, what made them feel sad, and what elements or events made them happy or glad. 

What are the benefits of a mad sad glad retrospective?

Scrum teams are typically tight-knit units that work together closely and meet consistently to assess their progress and improve their processes. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re immune to mistakes, oversights, and roadblocks that can impede the project — or from feelings of frustration, disappointment, and even anger that arise from these situations.

Rather than bottling these feelings up and letting them build to the point of resentment for fellow teammates, the sad mad glad retrospective allows Scrum teams to vent their frustrations and disappointments constructively. The mad sad glad acts as a pressure release valve to help the team reach a resolution and reset before the next sprint. 

In other words, the sad mad glad framework allows Scrum team members to express themselves in a structured and safe environment. Think of it almost as a group therapy session for your team members. That means that as the Scrum master or team leader running the session, you’re playing the role of the therapist. 

How to run a mad sad glad retrospective

Running a sad mad glad is pretty straightforward. If you’re meeting in person, you can begin by labeling a whiteboard with three columns: Mad, Sad, and Glad. Then, gather your team into the conference room. If you’re running the retrospective virtually, you can still utilize a whiteboard if you choose or simply talk through each section.

Next, allow your team members some time to reflect on the previous sprint. Direct them to write down the things that made them feel frustrated, disappointed, and angry, as well as things that made them feel happy, on sticky notes. Events that triggered frustration and anger would fall under the Mad category, while disappointments will go in the Sad column. Considering things for the Glad category is very important, too, as it balances the exercise and helps team members not focus solely on the negative. 

When everyone has written down their thoughts, have the team members place their sticky notes under the corresponding column on the whiteboard. In a virtual setting, consider using an online document or spreadsheet that everyone can access. 

Next, comb through the notes to find common themes. These will help guide the discussion. The discussion portion of the retro is where the rubber meets the road. Without pointing fingers or laying blame, discuss how the events that led to anger or sadness can be avoided in future sprints. You should also talk about the events that caused feelings of happiness and ways to incorporate those in subsequent sprints.

Mad sad glad retrospective examples

So, how exactly might a mad sad glad look? Here are a few examples:

Mad

Sad

  • Not feeling that my work is valued
  • Overwhelmed with support tickets
  • High churn among team members

Glad

  • Positive feedback from management on the latest feature or project outcome
  • Collaboration within the team 
  • Finished a deliverable ahead of time

What are the outcomes of a mad sad glad retrospective?

The ultimate goal of any sprint retrospective is to improve future sprints. The outcome of a mad sad glad retro, then, should be actionable items that can be applied in the very next sprint the Scrum team undertakes. 

Successfully performing a mad sad glad retrospective requires an environment where team members feel safe to discuss their feelings openly and honestly. Although it may be difficult at points, talking through these issues can help build tighter teams and a stronger sense of camaraderie. 

Once you’ve reflected on your last sprint, it’s time to plan the next one. Wrike makes sprint planning simple with pre-built templates, custom workflows, and dashboards to organize and prioritize your work. Want to see for yourself? Get started with a two-week free trial today.

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