Fight Club Retrospective

You probably remember the first 2 rules of Fight Club, right?

Let’s review the rules:

“Welcome to Fight Club. The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: you DO NOT talk about Fight Club! Third rule of Fight Club: if someone yells “stop!”, goes limp, or taps out, the fight is over. Fourth rule: only two guys to a fight. Fifth rule: one fight at a time, fellas. Sixth rule: the fights are bare knuckle. No shirt, no shoes, no weapons. Seventh rule: fights will go on as long as they have to. And the eighth and final rule: if this is your first time at Fight Club, you have to fight.”

― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Let’s now define what a retrospective is. A retrospective, is a specific session, in which a team reflects on what happened during the previous iteration. This reflection will lead the team to decisions, either to reinforce positive behaviors, or to invest time to improve what is preventing the members to achieve their goals.

There’s a lot of ways to facilitate retrospective, you could go here and there to find out more.

Isabel, my amazing wife, had the idea to create an “all-in-one” retrospective plan based on the Fight Club rules. You will learn more about this plan in her book to come.

In the meantime, I would like to present how I used the idea to foster productive conversations in a team that is scared of conflict. This is the second of the 5 dysfunctions of a team.

Maybe you think that using fight is too violent in the workplace. And at the same time, what happens in us, during a discussion could be felt as fight.


The meeting will start with the explanation of the goal, and how the Fight Club rules are transposed in our work environment.

The first 2 rules are useful, because, as stated by a manager in the team, the children don’t want to hear that “mum and dad are fighting”. I could argue that this statement in itself says a lot about the current state of trust in the organization, and that in an effective organization, the manager will probably not consider himself or herself as the parent of the team members. If we put that aside, the first 2 rules are useful to create a secured space in which conflicts are allowed, and nobody knows that we could have conflict in this team.

So we are saying there, that during this specific meeting, we will not seek artificial harmony, we will accept to start the conversation on topics that we are not in agreement (yet).

Third rule, we need to be able to stop the conversation. Fourth rule, only two people involved, everybody fighting at the same time against one is not a smart idea, right?

Fifth rule: one fight at a time. Let’s not mix all the topics in the conversation.

Sixth rule: no protection and no weapon. Is referring to your boss a weapon? Let’s discuss what it means for the team.

Seventh rule: … as long as they have too… We need the conversation to end with a decision.

Eighth rule: first timer have to speak up. In fact, every team member will have to bring a topic on the table.


What is missing there, is a way to bring topics that is non judgmental. So we could have a productive conversation. Isabel proposed to use Non Violent Communication, to encourage people to observe, express their feelings (and not their thoughts), to express their unsatisfied needs, and their requests.


This explanation of the 4 part of the NVC process could help 🙂