The Four Ls retrospective

Sprint Retrospective idea – Explore feelings in a safe way

What is the Four L (4L’s) retrospective?

The 4Ls stands for Liked, Learned, Lacked and Longed For and was initially developed by Mary Gorman and Ellen Gottesdiener. It is a simple and popular technique for scrum masters and their team to highlight the positives (liked and learned), as well as the negative (lacked and longed for) from both a factual and emotional perspective. You can read the original blog post The 4Ls: A Retrospective Technique.

Changing the way you run retrospectives from time to time can reveal new insights. The questions might be subtle but by moving away from the traditional agile retrospective and allowing people to be more engaged from a “heart and mind” perspective can switch up people’s thinking and open up new insights.

The 4L retrospective format

If you listen out to what your team says at the water cooler, you’ll find that they tend say things like “if only we have…” or “I wish we had…”. On the flip side, they also say things like “Guess what I found out…” and “I really loved…”

The 4Ls retrospective is designed to get people to share those thoughts as part of being agile and with the aim of continuous improvement.

It is based around the following key theme:


What did people like about the last sprint run? This could be anything from a process, an achievement, a particular team action or even a technology.


What things did the team learn from experiments, testing, conversation and from working with each other. These are any new discoveries, points of interest or highlights.


What seemed to be missing from the last iteration? On reflection, this might be something that was unclear or needed to be implemented to ensure that things continue to run smoothly.

Longed for

What is something that they wish existed or was possible that would ensure that the project would be successful.

By asking these questions, it can help open up the team to sharing their thoughts, bring out new ideas and foster a sense of being heard.


Suggested Icebreaker questions for Four L’s retrospective

  • Would you rather have liked or have learned from something?
  • As a kid, what did you long for?
  • What’s one thing you simply can’t allow yourself to lack?

Retro Rehearsal

Invite your team to rehearse the retro referencing what they most recently ate.

For example, thinking about your last meal…

  • What did you like about it?
  • What did you learn about it?
  • What did it lack?
  • What did you long for?

Ideas and tips for your 4L retrospectives

  • It might be subtle, but there is a difference between the Liked and Learned ideas. While the likes may have a more emotion based overtone and be based on feelings, the other is based on data, an actual result from an experiment or a new skill they learned.

  • There is also a difference between lacked and longed for. Lacked implies something that was a shortfall. So it may be something that is missing. Something longed for is more future oriented and it’s something that they wish that could exist going forward.

  • Create a safe space by making the map anonymous if need be. However, it is generally recommended to make your 4L retrospective honest and open.

  • One way to quickly get a sense about the health and happiness of the team is on the number of ideas in each heading. There should be some ideas in each. If every body liked everything then it might be symptomatic of people not wanting to push themselves or are afraid of saying what they think. Similarly if there are only negatives, then the reverse is true.

  • A thank you goes a long way. Give a shout out to the team at the end of the meeting.

  • Follow up with an action list that you will check off at the start of the next team retro.

How to run a 4Ls retrospective in TeamRetro

Start Agile Retrospective

Start your retrospective in a click
Log into TeamRetro and choose your sprint retrospective template.

Invite Your Team
Invite your team easily – no separate accounts needed
Send an email invite, a link or add to your Slack channel to get people started quickly. SSO options are also available.
Agile Retrospective Brainstorm
Time to brainstorm
Each team member can now brainstorm individually under each topic. This avoids group think and allows everyone to have their say. They can indicate when they have finished, or you can set a timer so that you know when to move onto the next stage.
Grouping of ideas after brainstorming in a retrospective meeting
Group related ideas
Drag and drop  related ideas to combine them for easier voting. TeamRetro can also automatically suggest ideas that are similar, saving you and your team valuable time.
Grouping of ideas after brainstorming in a retrospective meeting
Vote independently to avoid anchoring
Each team member votes on what they would most like to discuss further. The results won’t be displayed to everyone until you advance to Discuss.
Grouping of ideas after brainstorming in a retrospective meeting

Discuss the most important things first
You and your team discuss the top voted ideas and can capture deep dive comments.  Presentation mode allows you to walk your team through ideas one-by-one and keep the conversation focused.

Grouping of ideas after brainstorming in a retrospective meeting

Review and create actions

Easily facilitate discussion by bringing everyone onto the same page. Create action items, assign owners and due dates that will carry through for review at the next retrospective.

Grouping of ideas after brainstorming in a retrospective meeting

Share the results
Once you have finished your retro, you can share the results and actions with the team. Your retro will be stored so you can revisit them as needed.

Congratulations! You’ve just run a retro like a boss.
Want more? Read on.