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What a Mad, Sad Glad Retro is, What it isn’t and How to Run One

As we settle into remote work as the norm post-pandemic, technology is making it easy to stay connected and productive. However, convenient as it might be, the problem of managing a team online while maintaining an efficient flow of communication poses challenges. As a retrospective facilitator, you should understand the difficulties associated with holding meetings and work sessions online.

If your team’s performance has dropped or morale is low, It may be because there’s a breakdown in communication. Aside from strictly work-related needs, there may be some unmet needs. However, the solution comes in the form of the implementation of Agile Retrospective methods which address the needs of your team effectively. Using a retrospective before or after a sprint helps in recognizing the problems and in working towards their solutions as a team.

Among the many [retro formats], the mad, sad glad retro allows your members to vent their feelings collectively, by stating what made them mad, sad, or glad after a sprint. It has an action-oriented approach and channels the teamwork adequately towards a major change or shift in the organization.

Mad Sad Glad Retro Basics

Mad, sad glad is highly effective in determining your team’s emotions and feelings towards the project and sprint. It gives you the chance to highlight the important elements that make the members happy, as well as any concerns they have, and maintains optimum productivity within the project.

Organizing a mad, sad glad retrospective is fairly easy and very convenient for any team to begin with. Once the team is done with the sprint, the person in charge has to allot a certain time limit and ask the members to brainstorm and write about their feelings on the whiteboard, or sticky notes.

These feelings include the irritation, disappointment, and satisfaction they felt at certain times during the sprint. Once all of them have reflected and voiced their opinions, these notes are then placed under the relevant categories for a productive discussion to take place while addressing those points. This can be followed by questions and notes to reach an effective resolution as a team. Usually, a consensus through voting is the ideal choice to determine new approaches and methods.

Since the mad, sad glad retro focuses on your team’s feelings and opinions, divide yours into three categories for a constructive session.


Under the first category, participants list things that frustrated them or complicated their work in the previous sprint. This could be anything that got in the way or broke their focus. Too many interruptions, unrealistic sprint goals, or a breakdown of communication could be what comes up here. 


Any disappointments the team faced during the sprint fall into the sad category. Instances or elements of the sprint which upset the team go here for discussion. This could be something personal like the work of a member being undervalued, unaddressed problems that keep surfacing or consistent issues among the team.


Anything the members are happy about or looking forward to belongs in this category. For instance, a project that has been finalized before the deadline can please the team, or positive feedback on any outcome promotes feelings of achievement. The factors make up the best part of the mad, sad glad retro format.

Pros and Cons

All retro formats focus on different aspects of team dynamics in a software project. Each team is different and may prefer one format over another. This depends on how effective the format is, how much it influences team-building, and if the template is easy to use.

The mad, sad glad retro format can easily stand out to be the ideal format for promoting team productivity and connecting employees with each other in an open and comfortable environment. It prioritizes the emotional well-being of all members and encourages the team to discuss these emotions so they can connect and improve their work. This retro format works constructively to make the team release all their frustration, pressure, and disappointments instead of bottling those up and feeling unburdened before the next sprint.

However, as therapeutic and important as this retro format is, it still has some weaknesses that might get overlooked if not paid complete attention by scrum masters and agile project managers. 

During the session, it’s important to moderate discussion so no one gets sidetracked or dredge up irrelevant details, as that often happens in such activities where multiple points have to be met. Since there is a time limit, it’s essential that you make the activity worthwhile. If participants don’t find the retro useful, they won’t contribute, which can lead to lost productivity and poor motivation. They need proper guidance and a comfortable space to participate effectively.

As a retro facilitator, it’s your duty to ensure that no one is left out during the activity and everything runs smoothly.

Bottom Line

"Teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability." – Patrick Lencioni

Scrum teams are known to be consistent and efficient in their progress of work and meetings, and for constantly looking towards improvement. But since they’re not immune to mistakes and oversights, they can also be bothered by feelings of anger, sadness, disappointment. The mad, sad glad retro format has proven to prioritize and address such emotions in a professional environment and ensure the productivity of the team.

However, when selecting agile retrospective formats, it is crucial to understand each one of them considering the needs of your team and which one would be more beneficial. In this case, if you choose mad, sad glad for your team, it may have a positive effect on your team and the organization as a whole.

Therefore, as a responsible scrum master or project manager, you should weigh your options and choose the retro format that’s ideal for maintaining your team’s workflow.