The What, So What, Now What retrospective

Sprint retrospective idea – Call out issues, capture ramifications, shape effective actions

What is the What, So What, Now What retrospective?

If Dr Spock was to conduct a retrospective, it’s likely he’d choose the What? So what? Now what?  template.

Designed to bring a neutral pragmatism to the review of a sprint, this retrospective format helps your team suspend emotion and side-step bias in order to create a safely objective space to conduct your retro.

That objectivity doesn’t come at the cost of time as there’s no beating around the bush with this retrospective. Its format helps your team succinctly define what happened during your last sprint (What?), the consequences of those happenings (So what?), and shape logical next steps (Now what?).

This is a great format if you are looking for a way to liberate your team from pre-existing bias or groupthink. What happened isn’t categorised as either good or bad –  just a fact!

The What, So What, Now What retrospective format


How would you describe the situation? What happened? What was observed? What did you do to contribute? What was predicted? What was unpredicted?

So What?

How does this affect us? What value was delivered? What was learnt?

Now What?

What do we need to do to move forward? What can be repeated? What is to be avoided?


Suggested Icebreaker questions for the What, So What, Now What retrospective

  • If you were a Star Trek character, who would you be and why?
  • What’s more important: the what, the why or the how?
  • Now what? Name a time you found yourself at a metaphorical crossroad. What did you do next?

Retro Rehearsal

Invite your team to rehearse the retro referencing one of the crimes in this video.

For example, what happened? What were the ramifications? So what should happen next?

Ideas and tips for your What? So What? Now What? retrospectives

  • Make brainstorming anonymous to allow people to feel safe when contributing their thoughts. People will feel more engaged when they feel like they can air out what they need to.
  • Rotate your scrum master- allow a new voice to drive the retrospective.
  • Experiment with the retro template to make it your own (add “Then what?” to help inform future planning).
  • Try to encourage ideas in each section. Even if your team hasn’t achieved anything. Having an idea regarding what needs to be achieved to complete the overall goal will undoubtedly be useful.
  • Another way of combating groupthink and bias is to run the retro asynchronously. Share the template a couple of days before the meeting so people have time to think and pre-populate the columns.
  • Why not use a ROTI to checkout – gauge how valuable the team perceived the meeting to be.

How to run a What? So What? Now What? 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.