The 4Ls Retrospective and why you would use it


Ive just started working on a brand new project as a Scrum Master for a team of 7. Theres quite a mixed bag of experience, ranging from other scrum masters to agile first timers.

For our first retrospective I wanted something simple to explain, but also simple to take part in. The 4Ls technique leapt out at me.


For me, lacked and longed for are too similar, so I always make a slight adjustment and use Liked, Learned, Longed For and Loathed. Loathed is a strong word, but I find it helps the team highlight things that are slowing them down, whereas lacked is things that might speed them up.

I also add a strict rule of no more than 6 points each and you must have one point in each column. Why did I do this? Two reasons:

  1. It focuses everyone to their most important points to prevent a flood
  2. It forces everyone to think of positive things, Liked and Learned, that happened during the sprint. Which I find sometimes doesnt happen.

I find these two rules help me facilitate the meeting as I can control the duration and topics discussed more easily and prevent the retrospective becoming a moaning session.

Why you would use this technique

An awful lot of the internet nowadays seems to be how to do something, but not the why. Its become a bit of a pet peeve of mine, so Im going to try and list a few of the reasons as to why you would use this technique:

  1. Youre a new Scrum Master looking for an easy technique to follow that doesnt need a lot of input
  2. Youre a Scrum Master looking for a technique that doesnt take too long
  3. Youre a Scrum Master working on a team that is quite negative and want to get some positive points
  4. Youre the Scrum Master of an inexperienced team and you want to ease them into retrospectives
  5. Youre a Scrum Master who wants to freshen up your retrospectives without pushing the boat too far.


Im really pleased with the results of this technique.

We got plenty of points to talk about and I felt in control of the whole retrospective. All the team members contributed and we ended up with some useful ideas to try for the next sprint.

As always, Id love to hear of anyone else who has been in a similar situation and used a different technique. Why?

Please leave a comment below or catch me on twitter if you have any questions.

Personal Retrospective

For my own future reference, I like to analyse my own performance.

What Worked Well

  • Restricting the team to 6 points with at least 1 in each column

What Went Ok

  • Giving an example of what I would chose for each column.
  • It was useful to explain the technique, but Im slightly concerned it put words in peoples mouths. Perhaps next time use examples that are not to do with the topic, for example my feelings on a TV show.

Change Next Time

  • State explicitly that you cant have a point that straddles a line between two of the Ls

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