The power of saying: Thank you!

From the very first Retrospective I've facilitated, my favorite method to gather data have been the Sad, Mad, Glad type I learned from Esther Derby's book: Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great

Although I have participated and seen other Scrum Masters facilitate a Retrospective before, I mainly relied on Esther Derby's book and not my prior experience when I started to work as a Scrum Master. 

There was one modification to the Sad, Mad, Glad method I used from the very start and that is to include Thank you sticky notes. A Thank you sticky ("Köszi cetli", which sounds much better in Hungarian :) ) is for to thank and to remember those moments we were thanked for. I have always used it very similarly as Jurgen Appelo's Kudo Card. 

A Kudo Card is a Management 3.0 practice where peers continuously reward each other publicly with Kudo Cards when they feel someone deserves a thank you or an acknowledgment.  

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.
— Cicero

Gratitude and regularly thanking each other could make a huge difference in how happy someone feels. It is scientifically proven, promoted, and used by many happy and successful people. Thanking is one of the 12 things you can do to be a happy worker. The Five Minute Journal (affiliate) is for daily gratitude practice that only takes up a few minutes a day and makes a huge difference in your general well-being


How it works 

Whatever type of Retrospective I hold, I always include the Thank you stickies (I used to call them post-its, but I have found out recently that it sounds lame now. :D ). Most of the time, I like to use sticky notes anyways, so it is easy to select one specific color for the task and repeat it every time. 

  1. Prepare a flipchart paper (or draw on the whiteboard) and make four quadrants.  (Or make three parts and collect the Thank you notes separately on the wall or together with the Glad stuff.)
  2. Explain the four categories to the team. Glad (neon green) means the good stuff, the things and results the team is proud of, the processes and practices that worked well and should be repeated, those things and events that made them happy, etc. Mad (red/pink) means the bad stuff, those that need to be changed, that frustrates the team, the mistakes, the impediments and blocker issues. For me, Sad (neon yellow) means the improvement ideas, those that can solve the pink ones. In an ideal world, the team would come up with a yellow sticky for every pink sticky. The fourth category (pastel blue/green) is the Thank you notes. 
  3. The team writes the sticky notes and place them in the correct category on the flipchart paper. 
  4. Read out loud one sticky note. The author of the post-it can comment or explain it, then the team discusses it. I like to go from bad to good because the bad stuff usually takes more time to discuss and it is easier to stay within the time-box this way. 
  5. Group the duplicates and those that connects to the same problem. 
  6. Repeat until all stickies are discussed. 
  7. Let the team dot vote on the problem groups. 
  8. Help the team figure out how the three most voted problem could be solved. 
  9. Create an action sticky and ask for a volunteer or take it yourself. 
  10. On the next retrospective follow up on the action items. 

Including the Thank you notes into the Retrospective routine makes sure that the team members think about who to thank, which some procrastinating types would otherwise forget. I always encourage people to think outside the team and recognize and thank the work of other team members or other departments do. 


Sometimes there are a lot of Thank you notes, sometimes just a few, but I never had a sprint where none was written. If I ever forget it, they remind me of it that they want to thank someone. Some of the team members collected the stickies they got and put them on the wall next to their desk. It is good to see that they are proud of them. 

I tried to use the pre-designed Kudo Cards that are generously offered for free on the Management 3.0 website but I found that my teams responded better to the simple sticky notes approach. 


  1. Try to stick with the same colors all the time (for example pink -> bad stuff, yellow -> improvements, green -> good stuff, and blue -> thank you) so you will not confuse people. 
  2. But be careful not to get in a rut and do the same type of Retrospective over and over for months (years). 
  3. Tell them that they can write Thank you notes to people on other teams or in other departments. 
  4. Give them the Thank you stickies at the end of the Retrospective so they can proudly display them by their desk. 
  5. For distributed or remote teams tweet virtual Kudo Cards
  6. You can create a metric on the number of Thank you stickies given in a sprint, which could be part of a bigger Team Health or Team Satisfaction Metric. 
  7. As suggested in Managing for Happiness Kudo Cards (peer recognition) can be used as the basis of distributing Merit Money

How often do you thank your colleagues? Is there a practice to publicly acknowledge your peers in your organization? 
Comment or tweet me at @nikoletta_t