Barrels, Hammers, and Fire - A Retrospective



In this 60-90 minute retrospective, you will help your team look back at challenges this Sprint that rolled them over and victories/successes, all while making sure they don't lose sight of the things that can burn them in the rear if they are not addressed. This retrospective is inspired by the classic Donkey Kong game, where the game’s hero has to avoid being smashed by barrels to rescue a captive friend. While avoiding barrels, a fire constantly chases the hero, and more fires can arise if the hero does not move quickly enough.

While enjoying the theme of this activity, your team will talk about:

  • Barrels: Challenges, struggles, things that were not good these past two weeks.

  • Hammers: Victories, joys, successes, and things that helped us.

  • Fires: Barrels that can rightly burn us if we don't take care of them.

  • Jumps: Things we could do to jump over the barrels that could turn into fires.

How to use this template

  • Introduce the retro: Review the purpose, theme, and flow.

  • Gather data and discuss: Identify barrels and hammers and have an open discussion about both.

  • Prioritize challenges: Identify key barrels that, if not addressed, will create hurt in the future.

  • Take action: Make a plan for overcoming the potential fires.


  • By calling out barrels that could turn into fires, the team essentially prioritizes which barrels are most important to address. You might have team members who are concerned that their barrels (challenges) are being left behind. If this happens, you can pull them in if time allows. If time does not allow, consider setting up time beyond the retrospective to talk through the barrel with this person.

  • Don’t forget the hammers as you start talking about how to jump past these challenges. There is likely a hammer (successes) you could use to address challenges that could worsen.


Cody Wanberg image
Cody Wanberg
Instructional Designer@Bandwidth
Cody never stops striving to make everyone's life better- whether it be by facilitating a conversation or by providing the world's best laugh. He also knows how to tie a bow tie.

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