Tool: Rose, Thorn, Bud (retrospective)

A simple activity to reflect on performed actions or meetings, that taps into own’s doings/thoughts. This activity is based on one simple idea, that:

-> Roses are what we did right, something we are happy about, positive things.
-> Thorns are the negative things, something that we’re not proud of.
-> Buds are all those things that have the potential to bloom into roses.

The activity is very simple and takes between five and ten minutes, depending on how much reflection you’d like to introduce (or what the topic is).


Rose, Thorne, Bud

  • Tool goal: gather positive and negative feedback in a friendly and constructive way
  • No of participants: 1 facilitator; groups no limit (but smaller are better)
  • Time needed: max. 1 hour (no time for long discussion)
  • Supplies needed: flipchart/whiteboard, pens, post-it notes



  • Prepare the flipchart/whiteboard to have three columns, respectively for roses, buds, and thorns. Leave enough space for post-its.
  • Make sure that your group knows well enough what they’re reflecting on.
  • Explain the significance of the rose, thorn, and bud. Ask them for a few ideas (not linked with the retro topic).
  • When all is clear, start on the first column: everyone gets maybe 5 minutes to silently brainstorm their roses. Let them stick the notes themselves. While they do that, you can group similar ideas together.
    * Remind the participants to: be legible, only note the idea, not the entire 500-words explanation, and note one idea/concern on one post-it.
  • Discuss the ideas briefly as a team. Don’t let the discussion to be too long, there is not a lot of ideation here.
  • As second, focus on thorns. They silently brainstorm, and you oversee the ideas.
  • For thorns, spend more time discussing but mostly focus on why the particular thing didn’t work. There should be the same trends emerging, and you should start seeing them offer solutions – if this is the case, move to the third column.
  • For buds, let them write down the ideas to solve the above thorns, and new ideas that they have for making things better.
  • Buds should merge into clusters as well. You can try any clustering technique to sort them, and have a nice info board for an ideation session.


As a result…

  • You have the list of things your team liked (they went well).
  • You have the ist of things that need to be fixed/upgraded.
  • This is the moment to steer the conversation towards ideation, so the team can now move forward with their ideas and work on making things better.