My findings from using the Liberating Structure 1-2-4-all in a Retrospective

In the last retrospective with one of my awesome teams @dePersgroep, we experimented with a new form: the liberating structure 1-2-4-all. Since one of my goals is to make sure every team member engages in the retrospective, I expected this format to make this happen. Below you can read about the liberating structure
(aka ‘LS’), my preparation, the setup & instructions and my findings.

The 1-2-4-all LS

The 1-2-4-all is a method that engages everyone from the beginning and it’s purpose is to collectively generate and gather ideas in the group. 
On the LS website the statement is:

Engage Everyone Simultaneously in Generating Questions, Ideas, and Suggestions 

This applies to retrospective’s very well. 
In short: Start on your own (‘1’), write down your ideas, then tell them to 1 other person (‘2’). Then share in a group of ‘4’. Finally 1 person shares the findings to the group. You can read about it in more detail here. Or check this image:

The original setup for this LS

My Preparation & Instructions

Bring all your facilitation stuff: pens, post-its, paper, flipover etc.
Useful is a large offline timer. Using your phone might be distracting.
I wrote the instructions down, briefly. (tip do it very precise! the words you use set the tone for the complete meeting!)

Changes in the concept and the Instructions from this Retrospective
Round 1: “ONE”
Write down the main challenge(s) for the team you experience right now, limit to three, write them on seperate stickies. You’ve got 2 minutes.

Round 2: “TWO”
Between 2 team members, share your challenges, prioritize them and keep the top three only. You’ve got 3 minutes.
This makes everyones concerns heard, at least by 1 other person, and takes the most valuable to the group.

Round 3: “FOUR”
The exercise from round 2, but with 4 people. Keep three post-its again. 4 minutes.

Before the all I decided to share more in dept by introducing the market.
I instructed all 3 groups  to put the 3 post-its on the wall. 
Then : ” You all know the results from your own group. We’ll do 2 additional rounds, where you move to the other groups.  Per round “1 owner” has to stay at his/her own results to help the group understand. Change per round.
The goal is to understand the challenges, re-prioritize if needed, and most importantly : generate possible solutions to the challenges.  You’ve got 4 minutes per round”

Round 5: “ALL”
“This round, every group presents the most important challenge incl possible solutions. Together we decide which actions to take to work on the challenge. I will document the actions and people working on them. You’ve got 3 minutes per challenge”

My Findings

  • Always exciting to try new stuff, especially because I did not join someone in facilitation of a 1-2-4-all before. I was happy with the results though! People engaged very well. We had a lot of energy because of the changing groups / walking during the market.
  • The team was happy with the results. The many interactions made challenges known and shared. 
  • Facilitation and participation is a hard combination 😉
    • Keeping track of the timing while working on challenges is hard
    • I did not start the timer right twice.
    • It takes some time to adjust to a new workshop format for the team as well
    • I should have been more explicit about the rounds, it’s purposes and the timings. I will use a different thing than my phone to do timing the next time.
    • I will definitely take 1 hour next time. 
  • When starting, make sure the silence is not disturbed by questions, jokes or whatever. The ‘quality’ of the first post-its determines a lot.
  • The question you send them off with is very important, because it steers the complete workshop. Think about it twice. For the next meeting, I will definitely learn this by heart.

Read more

Of course, is a good startingpoint. Also Christian & Barry from the Liberators, wrote about a more advanced setup.


Do you (dis)like what you read? Or have something to add from your own experiences? Write it below! 

Next up is this LS : “What , So What, Now What” Tips?