It’s January and it’s cold, but it’s the beginning of a new year! How do you plan to start the year off right with your teams? Today, I propose to start on a cheerful note, full of warmth and positive emotions, with the facilitating of a retrospective focusing on the positive aspects of “working together” for the team.

Emotions at work

Obviously, emotions are an integral part of human life. Therefore, they are also very present in organizations. Despite this, we unfortunately all too often hide our heads when facing the rise in anger and frustrations of one person or another, postponing difficult conversations.

But as the year begins, why not try to celebrate what is most positive and set the table to start on the right foot in order to face what awaits us in our organizational life, invigorated and full of positive vibes!

We agree that we should not hide our heads in the sand. If there are problems in your teams, you have to face them. If your team shares a collaborative spirit and is sufficiently mobilized, this is the right time to try the appreciative inquiry.

Dark faces and ruminating thoughts of people caught in a negative spiral do not facilitate problem solving or the creation of productive solutions. I suggest that you try such an approach, especially if your team is fairly stable and important conflicts have already been managed.

The fact remains that this approach can also be used to untie the threads of group conflict, or to boost the troops’ morale, but it is nevertheless necessary to prepare well as a facilitator and to ensure that it is the right framework for the team in question.

The short story

The Appreciative Inquiry comes from the works of David Cooperrider dating from the 80s. However, the approach really took off in the 90s. It is part of the practices associated with positive psychology and presents a positive and dynamic approach to change.

Appreciative Inquiry seeks to find the best in each of us as well as within the system or organization. Questioning is at the heart of this approach, which aims at discovering the stories, the moments, which allowed individuals to feel the most alive, the most energized, and during which they felt that they were contributing and offering value to their organization.


This approach helps the emergence of a corporate culture focused on appreciation and promotes constructive and positive dialogues. It also seeks to accentuate the strengths and potentials and to amplify them. Appreciative Inquiry tends mainly to take advantage of the strengths of a system to co-create a desired future that makes sense for all.

What is appreciative inquiry?

Appreciative inquiry is an approach that can be used in the context of organizational change, but also for improving team processes, for conversation between individuals, and even, as mentioned above, to facilitate conflict resolution.

This approach basically aims at examining a situation by focusing on the strengths, successes and achievements, of the individual, the group or the system. It focuses on what works well rather than paying too much attention to the opposite: weaknesses, dysfunctions and problems. This helps generate more positive discussions as well as direct people’s attention to producing solutions associated with a desired ideal.

Thus, we are less interested in the classic question generally discussed in retrospectives, that is to say what did not work well during the sprint. We rather direct the discussion on what went well during the sprint or… the previous year!

The steps in 4 D

The approach is based on the following 4 steps: Discover, Dream, Design and Deliver.

4D en

The Discovery stage allows you to appreciate the best of what is and to discover what works. Through a structured dialogue, we remember moments of excellence, strengths and successes.

Dream (or desire) is the stage in which imagination is called upon to collectively create an ideal which could be based on success stories from the past. From this stage may emerge new possibilities and a permission to dare dream of a desired future and to project positively in this improved version of oneself or of us.

During the Design stage, we determine this ideal situation together, taking into account the discoveries and desires of the previous stages to plan the process and create a bridge to this desired future.

The final stage is that of Destiny, where we will identify how this desired future will manifest itself, in a generative way to ensure that we co-create a process of real continuous improvement.

Proposing an agenda

I suggest that you facilitate a retrospective at the beginning of the year based on Appreciative Inquiry while respecting the five stages of the classic retrospective as created by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen. Just for you, here is a very brief little agenda of activities that you could set up to conduct such a retrospective with a positive flavour:

Appreciative Retrospective


When the focus is on what works as well as on each other’s strengths, it fosters the emergence of bonds of trust and allows teams to become more resilient. It will therefore be with courage that these teams will be able to face the next challenges; with heart and open-mindedness …

You have suggestions of activities for positive feedback? Let me know in the comments section!!

References, sources and inspirations :

Improving agile retrospectives by Marc Loeffler

Agile Retrospectives – Making Good Teams Great by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen

Zélia Lefebvre

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