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How to Run Remote Retrospective Meetings With UXers


Five Figma templates to make your next remote retrospective awesome

Running a retrospective meeting is a great way to celebrate a team’s achievements. It’s also a safe environment where everyone can speak up about the things that are bothering them and share tough feedback without blame or judgment.

In this post, I share five frameworks that I’ve found helpful in making retrospective meetings (retro) effective and fun. I created a Figma template for each one so they’re easy for you to run remotely.

Why are retrospectives important?

With my UX team, we usually run retro after a research study, quarterly for UX critique and after new product releases.

Retrospectives help us find ways to improve collaboration, design processes and project outcomes.

Digital whiteboard screenshot
UX Crit retrospective using 2L’s framework

For example, during our latest retro for UX critique, we found that the notetaking role feels like a burden. It’s distracting for the person taking notes and not very useful for the presenter, as notes are often difficult to interpret or match with the part of the design they’re referring to. After a discussion, we decided to remove the notetaker role from our critiques and record meetings instead. This should have the added advantage of making everyone more proactive in leaving digital comments in Figma and the presenter’s deck.

By finding and fixing little things like that together, we’re collectively making our critiques more enjoyable and useful long term.

2L and 4L Retrospective header

Retros based on 2Ls and 4Ls

Duplicate Figma template

The 4Ls stand for Liked, Learned, Lacked and Longed For. It’s a format that covers both positive and negative project aspects and encourages continuous improvement.

What the 4Ls stand for

  • Liked — What did the team really appreciate about the project or its phase?
  • Learned — What new things did the team learn?
  • Lacked — What things could the team have done differently?
  • Longed For — What things did the team wish for but not get?

How to run a 4Ls retro (use for a 10–12 people team)

  1. Give your team members 3–5 minutes to silently put a sticky note on their individual Figma board for each category, what they Liked, Learned, Lacked and Longed For.
  2. Divide the team into four sub-teams, assign an “L” board to each and give them 10 minutes to cluster the notes into themes.
  3. Ask each team to present their themes (10 minutes).
  4. Select the five most important items on either the “Lacked” board or the “Longed For” board then, as a group, decide how you want to resolve them. Put notes on a “What’s next?” board (20 minutes).
  5. For each action item on the “What’s next?” board, assign someone to be responsible for making it happen (10 minutes).

For smaller teams, I’ve found, it’s more effective to shorten this format to 2Ls: Liked and Lacked. Limiting yourselves to 2Ls leaves more time for deeper discussions and brainstorming.

How to run a 2Ls retro (use for a 5–6 people team)

  1. Give everyone 5 minutes to jot down what they Liked on a sticky note on their individual Figma board. Then ask each person to share their note and explain any details.
  2. All together, cluster the notes into themes (5 minutes).
  3. Repeat Steps 1 and 2 to create a “Lacked” board (~10 minutes).
  4. Select the five most important items on the “Lacked” board and, as a group, discuss how you will resolve them. Put ideas on a “What’s next?” board then discuss each action item and assign someone to be responsible for making it happen (20–30 minutes).
Sailboat Retrospective header

Sailboat Retrospective + “Life on Mars” Theme

Duplicate Figma template

The Sailboat retro allows a team to think about project impediments, risks, good practices and where the team wants to go.

What each item represents

  • Island — the team’s objectives or vision
  • Rocks — the risks the team might encounter
  • Anchor — everything that slows the team down on its journey
  • Wind — everything that helps the team reach its objectives

How to run a Sailboat retrospective

  1. Start by placing a sailboat, rocks, wind and an island on the board.
  2. Ask everyone to use sticky notes to write down project vision, risks, ideas on what slows team down, what helps to achieve the objectives. Then post stickies into the different areas according to the picture (10 minutes).
  3. Discuss and make notes on how to continue the practices that are written in the wind area, how to mitigate the identified risks and what actions can be taken to fix the problems. Select the five most important problems (30 minutes).
  4. Create action items for each problem and assign someone to be responsible for each action item (10 minutes).
Life on Mars Retrospective header

Life on Mars theme

Duplicate Figma template

I created the “Mars” theme as a fun variation of the Sailboat theme. You can discuss the project in relation to three topics, using corresponding visuals:

  • What makes human life sustainable on Mars? Meaning, in project terms, “What keeps our project going, what we should continue doing?
  • What threatens life on Mars? Meaning “What should we stop doing?”
  • What should we do to protect humans? Meaning “What action should we take to ensure progress?”
Stop, Start, Continue Retrospective header

Start-Stop-Continue Retrospective: Weather Theme

Duplicate Figma template

This is the most popular retrospective meeting format; it helps teams to focus on concrete actions they can take to improve collaboration, processes and results.

I created this “Weather” theme to make retro a bit more fun. Just grab any icon and put it next to your sticky note to emphasize the meaning and draw attention.

What these categories mean

  • Start — activities/practices that the team wants to bring to the table
  • Stop — activities/practices that have not brought value
  • Continue — activities/practices that the team is doing well and wants to keep

How to run a Start-Stop-Continue retro

  1. Give everyone 5 minutes to jot down on their Figma board what they think the team should start doing. Then ask each person to share their note on a “Start” board and explain any details.
  2. All together, cluster the notes into themes (5 minutes).
  3. Repeat Steps 1 and 2 to create a “Stop” board (~10 minutes).
  4. Repeat Steps 1 and 2 again to create a “Continue” board (~10 minutes).
  5. Assign each team member a certain number of votes that they can use to indicate their preference for a sticky note or group. After voting is complete, sort the sticky notes based on the number of votes each received (10 minutes).
  6. Discuss the top five sticky notes and create action items for each one. Assign someone to be responsible for each action item (20 minutes).

Running retrospective meetings regularly is challenging; they can quickly become boring or may seem a waste of time if you use the same framework every time. Changing up the format, experimenting with themes and making it feel like a game will help you keep your retros effective and enjoyable.

Additional reading


How to Run Remote Retrospective Meetings With UXers was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.