Using Strength-based Questions in Retrospectives

strength-based questions retrospectiveAgile retrospectives help teams to learn from how they are doing and find ways to improve themselves. In stead of learning from what went wrong, from problems, mistakes or failures, teams can also learn from things that went well, by asking strength-based questions in their retrospectives. Such questions will help them to use their existing skills and experience to become great in doing things that they are already good at.

If teams focus on things that are going wrong they can become an average teams. A team that is capable of doing what needs to be done. To become great teams have to stand out from the crowd, by being capable of doing teams that others teams can’t do. They can do this by improving the things that they are good at, to get even better to outperform other teams.

Strength-based questions

Agile retrospectives can be used by teams to reflect, learn and improve. Here are some examples of questions that you can use in a questions-based retrospective to discover strengths:

  •  When did things go well?
  • What was it that made it possible?
  • Which outcome positively surprised you?
  • When have you been most proud of your work?
  • What has inspired you?
  • What has worked best for your team?
  • What made it work?
  • What do you particularly value about your team?
  • Which unique skills does your team possess?
  • What works well and can be expanded or developed further?

Team can do a strengths-based retrospective exercise to focusing on their personal and team strengths and continuously becoming better in the things that they are doing great. Or do a core qualities exercise in their agile retrospectives to learn from things that went very well. Another retrospective exercise, asking why, can be used to get insight in peoples behavior and their feelings and motives that drive them and reveal the strengths that they have.

Improve by using your strengths

Some of the more know strength-based or positive approaches for continuous improvement are:

What makes these approaches different is that they start from what is working in the current situation. You start by finding out what makes thing work, the strengths that people and teams have. Then you can explore how to use the strengths that people posses to address problems or improve the way of working. Such an change approach results in less resistance.

Do you use a strengths-based approach to improve? Ask strength-based questions in your retrospectives? Please share your experiences!


Ben Linders

I help organizations with effective software development and management practices. Active member of several networks on Agile, Lean and Quality, and a frequent speaker and writer.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.