Hot Air Balloon Retro


Why do this retrospective?

The Hot Air Balloon Retro is a simple activity to help an Agile team identify what allowed them to move faster and what slowed them down over the course of their last working sprint together,

through the lens of a hot air balloon ride. It is a forward-thinking workshop, with an eye on the past.

It is a hybrid retrospective and futurespective exercise, that looks at what is helping or hindering the team and what positive and negative things are on the horizon.

Set the scene

“Imagine it’s a nice sunny day and as a team we’re taking a leisurely ride in a hot air balloon. Now consider, what will happen if there is too many heavy sandbags attached to the basket? What about the hot air, how much do we need to ensure we fly along easily? What affect might the weather have on us? All these factors influence the hot air balloon ride in the same way they can affect our team project work.”

Running the activity

Generating insights

1. Firstly, think about the positive things that you have to look forward to and put them in the Sunny Skies.

2. Move onto the Storm Clouds, what problems or obstacles are coming up, or do you need to be aware of?

3. Focusing on the current sprint, identify the Hot Air: the elements that were driving the team forward so far.

4. Lastly, ask everyone to identify the sandbags holding the team back and add them as 'Sticky Notes' on the template.

Decide what to do

Group common ideas, find affinities within the past and future sections and discuss further.

Hold a voting session to uncover the three most important themes, use the “Hot Air Balloon” voting counters to prioritise topics for discussion.

Brainstorm and discuss solutions and actions for the top themes, and ensure an owner is assigned for each of the actions committed.

Tips on running this session

• Best for; assessing progress

• When to use, in the middle of a project

• Remote-team advice; this activity works well for remote teams

• Timebox; 60-75 minutes, depending on team maturity

• People; 3+

• Level; beginner


Steven Sampson-Jones image
Steven Sampson-Jones
Head of Agile Delivery@UK Government
An enthusiastic doodler and visual artist, who enjoys putting those interests into agile workshops.
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