Learn from each project with a Mad Sad Glad retrospective

Learn from each project with a Mad Sad Glad retrospective

It may remind you of kindergarten flashcards, but the Mad Sad Glad retrospective is a simple and effective tool for looking back at a recently finished project or sprint and find ways to improve the next one. If you mastered kindergarten, you’ll be able to get this one down in no time.

Unlike the Start Stop Continue retrospective or the Keep Problem Try retrospective, the Mad Sad Glad retrospective brings feelings and a level of personality to the process that you don’t always see in the office. While all three retrospectives may seem to have some similarities, as we dive deeper into Mad Sad Glad, you’ll easily see what sets it apart from the rest. Let’s get going!

Mad Glad Sad

Using the Cacoo template, your team will look back on the sprint or project that you’ve all just finished together. The gist of this exercise is that you will all find points of the process that made you (individually or as a team) mad, sad, or glad.

  • Mad — This category includes instances that made you irritated or frustrated, including those eye-rolling and forehead-slapping moments.
  • Sad — This category includes examples of when you were disappointed or let down; think of the events that maybe made you need a deep breath.
  • Glad — The category includes any success along the way, no matter how small: When did you celebrate or what things might have pleasantly surprised you?

Getting started

Now that you have your Cacoo template ready and everyone knows what each of the categories represents, make sure your team is all well-notified about the retrospective meeting and the process. This will give them some time to start preparing instances that they would place under each category.

As the manager, you can either facilitate this meeting in person or virtually. Fortunately, Cacoo allows all team members to edit together in real-time.


Gather your team and make sure you have a safe environment. Having a cold or threatening environment could chill speech and stop the meeting from being as productive as it could be.

Since everyone has already had the chance to come up with some examples on their own, you can either facilitate by going around and letting everyone name one thing on their list at a time until everyone is out of ideas, or you can allow everyone to fill in their lists within the categories in the template on their own. This will let you move straight to the voting and discussion steps.


Are any of the suggestions exactly the same or extremely similar? Eliminate one or combine them into one point! This process is called grouping and it helps a lot with cutting out the clutter. It also gives the team an opportunity to conduct some preliminary discussions about each other’s suggestions.


Now that you’re down to the more generalized points with no repeats, your team votes on which points that remain within each category are the most important.

You can really make this step whatever you want it to be, since there are so many styles of voting. Every member can have ten votes and can dot vote by using their ten votes on whichever ten ideas they find to be the most important (they can even place all ten on the same note if it’s REALLY integral to them). You can allow everyone a single vote. You can give everyone a yes/no vote on each suggestion.

After the voting process, you can either address everything that received a vote, only keep the top five to ten from each category, etc. Again, there’s a lot of personalization that you can do with this step to fit your team and your budgeted time most appropriately.


Now is the time to really get in the weeds. However many suggestions you decided to keep after the last step, now is when you’ll really dive in.

Go through each issue, category by category. What caused this event? Is there something we could do to fix it or replicate it? Make sure not to single any one person out while going through this step. It can be easy to accidentally attack someone’s performance or work ethic if you aren’t being careful.

Make sure to give each issue adequate time. You’ll probably want to aim for about five to ten minutes for each note. But, make sure not to let time limit you if the team is having a beneficial discussion. The whole point of the retrospective is to bring about those discussions — you don’t want to cut them short for the sake of following a schedule.

Acting on discussion

Come up with at least one or two actionable items for each suggestion on the list, no matter which category it fell under. You can even place one team member in charge of doing follow-up work and research to make sure all of this great work doesn’t fall by the wayside as you move into your next project.

Final thoughts

People may have told you to keep feelings out of the office, but the Mad Sad Glad retrospective has shown you that there’s a time and place to be able to bring your feelings up to help your entire team. It’s always possible that they’ve had the same feelings about particular events but never felt like there was a time or place to bring it up.

Mad Sad Glad not only gives you a chance to express those feelings, it’ll improve how your projects are conducted in the future.

Even though it allows room for a lot of customization, maybe Mad Sad Glad just isn’t for you: You can also check out some of the other retrospective templates that Cacoo offers to see what works best for your team. Plus, find a quick guide to six types of retrospectives to learn more and help decide which option will be right for your team.

After your next project, try Mad Sad Glad and see how it fits your team!

Lauren Grabau Lauren Grabau is a globetrotting copywriter providing SEO web content, puns, and a keen eye for spelling wherever she can. She's probably currently planning her next trip or lost on a long walk.