The 4L’s Retrospective

The 4L’s is a data gathering activity for retrospectives.
It is a concept originally introduced by Mary Gorman and Ellen Gottesdiener.

4L’s stands for:
Liked — What did you like during this sprint / cycle/ project?
Learned — What did you learn during this sprint/cycle/ project?
Lacked — What did we lack during this period?
Longed for — What did you long for an improvement?

Use it when you want to…
Highlight the positive (liked & learned) as well as the negative (lacked & longed for).

Have the team think mostly from a factual (what happened) perspective, rather than an emotional perspective.

Length of time:
Depending on the size of the team, 60 minutes should be enough.

How it works:

  1. Hang four posters, one for each L, around the room, titled appropriately.
  2. Ask people to individually jot down what they Liked, Learned, Lacked, and Longed For — one per sticky note. When the time is up (e.g. 20 minutes), they can place their notes on each poster.
  3. Divide the group into four subgroups; assign an “L” poster to each subgroup. They read all the notes, cluster as appropriate and identify themes.
  4. Each team reports out on the themes.
  5. The entire group decides how they might use the data. For example, ask, “How can we satisfy the ‘lacked’ or ‘longed for’ items?

Below you can see an example of 4L’s posters:


The 4L’s variation:

  1. Use color stickies, one color per “L”.
  2. Select a subset of the L’s, but remember the power of “longed for”.
  3. At step 2: Instead of each person writing their own 4 L’s, split group into 4 teams and assign each team to one of the L’s. Each team collectively identifies, discusses and writes points. (Plan for more time to allow for discussion.)
  4. After posting their items onto their assigned “L” poster, ask teams to rotate to each of the other 3 posters, adding items that occur to them.
  5. After step 3: Facilitate a “gallery walk around” whereby people walk around and read what’s on the 3 other posters.


4L’s encourages full team participation, it is fast, focused and it can be fun

Please share your experience about retrospectives that can be fun and they are valuable.



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