The Retrospective is an opportunity to debrief projects, make meaning of what happened together, and document lessons learned. In its simplest form, the Retrospective captures what went well, what could have been improved, and the changes to make for next time. It is a critical part of the learning process.

For bigger projects, we use this Google Doc template for retrospectives. To use, click on this link to open Google Docs, then select File > Make a copy… in the menu.

The template consists of five sections:

  1. Key Takeaways / Next Steps. High-level learning and immediate next steps.
  2. Adjustments. Any changes you made to the plan as you were executing it. For example, if you’re debriefing a meeting, what shifts in the meeting design did you make in the moment, and why?
  3. Results. What were the outcomes, both good and bad? Includes a copy of the Goals + Success Spectrum.
  4. Process. What about the process worked well, and what could be improved?
  5. Relationships. What about the relationships between the participants worked well, and what could be improved?

We use Interaction Associates’ Results-Process-Relationships framework to highlight the different dimensions of a successful project.

Using the Retrospective Template

Everyone on the team should participate in a Retrospective. You should allocate 1-2 hours for a full-group meeting, depending on the complexity and size of the project. Be sure to copy the project’s Goal + Success Spectrum into the appropriate section of the template, so that the team can review this together.

  1. Give everyone time to reflect individually on what went well and what could have been improved. People should take their own notes in this phase rather than use the shared template, so that everyone has the opportunity to do their own thinking. This can also happen asynchronously before the full-group meeting. Ideally, people are taking notes during the project itself, not just waiting until the Retrospective.
  2. Review the Success Spectrum together. Mark the hits and misses (for example, you could bold the hits and strikethrough the misses), adding notes in the appropriate Results column.
  3. Capture other Results, both good and bad. For example, did something unexpected (either good or bad) emerge that wasn’t captured in the Success Spectrum?
  4. Open up discussion to other thing that went well and could be improved. Start with things that went well. It’s not necessary for participants to categorize what they want to share under Results, Process, or Relationships. The facilitator should do this while allowing the participants to speak more free-form.
  5. After everyone has had a chance to contribute, review Results, Process, and Relationships section-by-section. This makes sure you cover all three dimensions adequately.
  6. Discuss and capture Key Takeaways and Next Steps.


Unless otherwise stated and to the extent possible under law, we dedicate this toolkit to the public domain.

See Also


November 20, 2018

  • Moved this toolkit to its own page
  • Renamed from “Debrief” to “Retrospective”

January 26, 2015

  • Moved Next Steps to first page, and added Key Takeaways column.