9 Ground Rules for Retrospectives

"Everyone participates, no one dominates"

There are always a mix of extrovert and introverted people in a meeting. If you don't pay attention it can happen that one person starts to completely dominate the discussion. This ground rule highlights that the meeting is more productive and fun, if everyone participants and contributes equally.


E.L.M.O stands for "Enough, let's move on" and can be established as a meeting rule to cut unnecessary discussions. Once stated, anyone in the meeting can say "ELMO!" at any time to indicate that it is time to move on to the next topic.

Donut Rule

The Donut Rule is a meeting guideline for the group to focus on the larger picture (donut) instead of getting caught up in things they don't have or can't control (hole in the donut). When the group focuses on the donut, instead of the hole (metaphorically) it's easier to maintain a constructive and positive atmosphere.

"Be present, or be elsewhere"

The more people zone out of a meeting, the quality of the meeting and its output will diminish rapidly. Often people do this unconsciously because they feel that the meeting isn't relevant for them. "Be present, or be elsewhere" is a good meeting guidelines to establish shared awareness and clear expectations one participants.

"Share the air"

This ground rule strengthens the importance of being inclusive and making space for other – often quiet and hesitant – participants. It's everyone's responsibility, to find ways that everyone can contribute their ideas and thoughts to the meeting.

Windshield Rule

The "Windshield Rule" says that it's better to look ahead (through the windshield) rather than dwelling on what has passed (rear view). It's a great meeting rule to put the group into a forward-looking mindset.

"Explore interests, not positions"

It's often difficult to reach an agreement in a meeting because some people are often dogmatic about their position. But if participants mutually explore the interest behind the positions, it becomes much easier to find a common ground.

"Lean into discomfort"

Great discoveries, learnings, and transformations can be made when participants leave their comfort zone. This ground rule helps to draw out participants to embrace discomfort. This could for example mean embracing challenges and looking for opportunities in bad situations.

"Be the crew, not the passenger"

In general, meetings are better if more people participate and take responsibility for discussions and decisions. "Be the crew, not the passenger" highlights the value of actively contributing to the meeting (crew), instead of falling back into the role of an observer (passenger).