Retro with Circles and Soup

The scrum retrospective should be used to speak about things which the scrum team wants to change or improve. Sometimes it isn’t easy to speak about such points. The team may feel as poor victim and wants that other people have to change their behavior before they can do something.

A good method in such a retrospective is the “circles and soup” technique. It will help to identify things the team wants to change and furthermore it will visualize which things may be changed by the team and which are outside the control of the team. By using this technique, very often the team will realize that can do or influence much more than they thought.

Find change request

At first everyone in the team should write down his change request to sticky notes. Previously a simple rule should be announced: The change request should not contain a problem description it should contain the wished final state. So instead to write down the problem “every time some persons are too late at the daily scrum” the wish “we will start our meetings on time” should be noted.

Introduce the Circles and Soup field

Draw three circles on a white board. Draw one large circle with a smaller one inside. And draw a third circle inside the second circle. Label the smallest circle with “Team Control”, the middle one with “Team Influence” and the largest circle with “The Soup”.

The circles describe the various areas of influence of a team. The inner circle “Team Control” describes the area that the team has directly under control. All requests that are positioned in the innermost circle can be implemented directly by the team, usually without the help of others. The middle circle “Team Influence” describes changes that are not completely in the team control, but at least the team can affect these points, e.g. by persuading the supervisor. The outer circle “The Soup” is the area where the team has no influence. Topics that end up here cannot be changed by the team itself and usually have to be accepted.

If you have drawn and introduced the circles and soup field, it is time for the team to place the sticky notes with the team wishes and change requests. So all team members should introduce their point and place them in the prepared field. If things are noted multiple times then don’t throw away the repeated sticky notes. Place them also on the field because so you can see the importance of issues.

Define actions

If all sticky notes are placed, hopefully the team will see that most or even all of the points are within their area of influence. So it is possible to change these issues. Therefore together you should prioritize the issues and define according actions to solve them.


The circles and soup technique will help the team to recognize that most issues are within their own area of influence. With this understanding the team will no longer push the issues away and expect that someone else will solve them. Instead they will recognize that they can and have to solve these issues themselves.

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