Must Should Could Won’t retrospective

Sprint retrospective idea – Create focus by deciding what is in and out of scope

What is the Must Should Could Won’t retrospective?

Our actions should express our priorities, and Must Should Could Won’t is a great sprint retrospective template to help teams identify those priorities to ensure they continue to deliver value where it is most needed.

With that in mind, it’s an approach that aligns well with agile processes and frameworks given its focus on the delivery of valuable things first. It is also a great Scrum sprint retrospective idea as it offers the product owner a mechanism to step into the shoes of their customer and view the product from their perspective.

The Must Should Could, Won’t template can also be used to run futurespectives with your team.

The Must Should Could Won’t template is incredibly powerful when used well. It is a particularly useful tool to maintain focus on priorities for projects with a large number of feature requests and competing stakeholders. It is also a great way to ensure any personal bias of the project team does not distort project priorities.

Must Should Could Won’t retrospective format

Must (M)

These elements are critical or core to delivery or release or are a requirement as needed by law or project delivery requirements.

Should (S)

These elements are important but not critical for the release nor are they time-sensitive. They may be requests that have come from users but are not show stoppers and can be seen as nice to have items – think low-cost value adds.

Could (C)

These would be great to have, but the release could be fulfilled without them. They may be future iteration ideas, potential growth or product differentiators, and something that could happen in the future.

Won’t (W)

These are elements that the team will not do and is specifically out of scope. For example, they may choose not to support an operating system, or that a product direction is specifically excluded.

Suggested Icebreaker questions for Must Should Could Won’t retrospective

  • How do you spend most of your time on the weekend?
  • Which word resonates most with you – ‘should’ or ‘could’?
  • How would you decide if an undertaking is something you must do?

Retro Rehearsal

Invite your team to rehearse the retro referencing a decision they make regularly.

For example, what item in your current shopping list must, should, could, or wouldn’t you buy?

Ideas and tips for your Must Should Could Won’t retrospectives

  • Looking for a way to disrupt groupthink or not let a good idea go to waste? Why not give an asynchronous Must Should Could Won’t a try! As well as offering your team a platform to focus on the project priorities, it allows team members space to contribute their own thoughts in their own time.

  • Seeking to support a psychologically safe space? Switch up your Must Should Could Won’t to allow participants to offer their input anonymously – all voices will be heard at the same volume and ideas rather than the person who suggested them will be the focus.

  • Clarify the team’s understanding of each header. The most commonly asked question is what the difference is between should and could. Should simply means that it might have be an agreed practice or potential future benefit if acted upon now. Could means that there is potential in the future and can be done.

  • The Must Should Could Won’t template can also be used at the start of a project in the form of a futurespective to help your team to shape a high-level strategy that supports the smooth delivery of their goal.

  • Use the way teams vote to manage priorities. This allows you to discuss key items and them move them into the relevant groups or columns as needed. Another way to manage priorities is to use team reactions and ask people to give each item a thumbs up or thumbs down for example to indicate their level of support for the items presented.

  • When reviewing the final list of items, there will be focus on action items around the Must column but don’t forget to come back to this list in future planning sessions. TeamRetro lets you keep all your history of your online retrospectives so you can find them as needed and review when the time is right.

How to run a Must Should Could Won’t 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.