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Rose, Thorn, Bud

Rose Thorn Bud reflection technique summary showing a rose with thorn and bud highlighting successes, challenges and potential

Rose, thorn, bud is a simple tool for reflection for yourself or your team. The basic idea is to look back at a recent project or how things are going and consider each aspect of a rose:

  • Rose: what are the successes? What's gone well?
  • Thorn: what are the challenges? What could we do better?
  • Bud: what are opportunities with potential? What could we explore or try?

If running as a team retro activity or retrospective, you might spend a few minutes individually adding thoughts for each prompt, then talk through each of the thoughts in Rose, Thorn and Bud.

A separate but no less important step is often to capture actions from the reflection—what you'll do as a result. If you're conducting retros regularly, consider revisiting actions from previous sessions.

I like "rose, thorn, bud" as it's beautiful to consider that a rose contains such different facets, like so many things.

I've come across many retro and reflection activities that are variations of these three prompts: "What went well?", "What didn't go well?" and "What else?" A few to mention:

  • The sailboat retro: Goal/vision, Rocks, Wind, Anchor — a nice feature for a team is that this activity places you all in the same boat
  • Glad, Mad, Sad
  • Liked, Learned, Lacked, Longed for
  • Wishes, Risks, Appreciations, Puzzles
  • I liked, I wish, What if
  • Start, stop, continue
  • Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats (SWOT)

A reader suggested a fourth aspect of the rose analogy to reflect on as its leaves or roots: what are the unnoticed or behind-the-scenes things that contribute to the rose's success?

I've come to consider that it doesn't matter too much what activity you choose to get a discussion going. What matters most is regular reflection, hearing all the voices in a team, and making progress together. One teammate ran an excellent retro by us all finishing early and heading to the pub.

I didn't intend it, but some of the products and prints for rose, thorn, bud out to be some of the nicest I have.

Also see: Information radiatorMoSCoW prioritisationRACIHow to peel a Post-it so it doesn't fall downthe upward spiral


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