Living Eulogy – Agile Retrospectives

by Jessica Long

Agile Retrospective Activity

The most unfortunate thing about a traditional eulogy is that the subject of gratitude isn’t around to hear it. An agile sprint is a lot like life overall in the sense that it’s over before you know it. Don’t wait for a moment to become a memory. Capture it. The Living Eulogy Retrospective is one of the more uplifting and unforgettable exercises that I have had the pleasure of driving. If there were ever a way to humanize a team’s DNA and build upon a bond, this is a surefire way to do it.

What you can expect to get out of this exercise

Focus will be diverted away from the traditional accounting side and reflection of the iteration. Concentrating on the people instead of the process humanizes an otherwise methodical system oriented examination. This will result in improved team harmony and synchronization. The exercise is beneficial for both maturing teams and groups that may be struggling with internal team level conflict.

How to do it

Hand each teammate a sheet of a paper as you introduce the exercise. Instruct each person to put pen to paper and identify who they are and what team they represent on the top of the page. For example, “Jess Long is a teammate for the Ginger Snaps.” Explain that upon your mark, each person should hand their paper to the left. The receiver will have 2 minutes to write an expression of gratitude or describe a positive team contribution that praises the subject at an individual level. This can be a single sentence or a short paragraph. Upon hearing the buzzer at the 2 minute interval, the teammate should hand the paper to the person on their left. This action will repeat itself until the papers make their way back to their original subject.

When you receive the sheet belonging to the person to your right, this will indicate that you’ve reached the final round. Urge the final writers to hand the papers back to their owners face down upon hearing the buzzer. Once everyone has received their original sheet, it’s time to ask for a volunteer to read his or her living eulogy to the group. Most participants are eager to see the mysterious sheet that lies before them but if there’s hesitation, you can opt to go first. This is the fun part. As the paper is flipped and the summaries are read out loud, there can be a lot of laughter around subpar penmanship and sometimes even tears of endearment.

Once everyone has had a chance to read, thank the group for extending themselves in such a personal manner. Reflect on the experience and express that you hope each person values their living eulogy as much as you value your own. Urge your teammates to hang these up or keep them in a place they can easily access. Chances are, that is already the intent of your team before you even suggest it.

About Jess

Jess Long has driven multiple Agile Transformations within several large financial institutions. Her love of coaching has enabled her to be a servant leader to many teams and provide individual direction to each of the specific roles that make up a successful Agile alliance. While she values each ceremony that goes along with an iteration, she embraces the sprint retrospective most of all.

If you have questions related to this article, please feel free to contact Jess on Twitter @ScrumAndGinger or through

Picture credits go to: Improve It.


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