Hot Air Balloon retrospective

Retrospective Idea – Help lift your team up to new heights and continue to deliver value.

What is the Hot Air Balloon retrospective?

The Hot Air Balloon retrospective is a fun and novel agile tool to reflect on your last sprint while building up the team. Participants are invited to identify: the things that contributed to their progress (Hot Air); those that made it difficult to deliver value (Sandbags) and those who contributed to the team’s success (Hugs and Kudos). The ideas shared inform actions to shape the smooth transition into the next sprint.

The Hot Air Balloon retrospective is a great one to use when looking for ways to support a positive working environment. Taking the time to offer “Hugs and Kudos” by acknowledging the efforts and contributions of others does wonders for team health. This small but impactful exercise in gratitude enhances positive connections and team morale.

Hot Air Balloon retrospective format

Hot Air

What is making us fly? What supports our success? What makes us feel great about the work we’re doing? What’s offering us a great return on time invested?


What is keeping us down? What is making it difficult for us to deliver value? What is needed but cumbersome?

Hugs and Kudos

Who do we want to acknowledge? What actions (no matter how small) made the last sprint easier, better, or simply more fun?

This style of retrospective can be used when your team is having trouble completing a task. Having the ability to see what has been slowing you down and what you have achieved despite this, can be helpful in providing confidence when trying to complete a difficult task.

Suggested icebreaker questions for the Hot Air Balloon retrospective

  • Would you or have you ever traveled by balloon?
  • Which do you think is more important – hot air or sandbags? Explain why.
  • If you were part of a hot air balloon, which part would best represent you. Explain why.

Retro Rehearsal

Use the Hot Air Balloon retrospective to review your exercise routine. What do you need to do to improve your performance?

Ideas and tips for your Hot Air Balloon retrospective

  • Customize your template. Expand your team’s review of their last sprint to include opportunities and risks by adding the dimensions “Sunshine” and “Storm”. Flip your retrospective to become a futurespective by including “Destination”.
  • Circulate the retrospective template at the start of your sprint, rather than at the end. Then encourage team members to add items for ‘Hugs and Kudos’ at the end of each day. This way they are less likely to be forgotten and the team finishes their day with an exercise in gratitude.
  • Rotate the Scrum Master. This will change the voices that are heard and give people a chance to contribute to the retrospective in a different way.
  • Use a Return on Time Invested (ROTI) tool to monitor the effectiveness of your meeting.
  • Keep your team agreements in view during your retrospective. Remember you can add to them at any time.
  • Make the most of your presentation mode and drill down into ideas at the brainstorming, grouping as well as discussion stages of your retrospective. This will let those who contributed the input the chance to explain and feel heard.

How to run a Hot Air Balloon 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.