Define Sprint Retrospective

The Sprint Retrospective provides an opportunity for the scrum team to inspect its way of working, determine what needs to be improved and plan to include these improvements in the next sprint. The sprint retrospective is based on the principles of the Agile Manifesto -“At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.” The sprint retrospective takes place after the sprint review and before the next sprint planning meeting . For a four week sprint, this meeting may last for about three hours. It is attended by the entire scrum team along with the scrum master and product owner. Most sprint retrospectives focus on these four important questions:

  1. What went well?
  2. What could have been done better?
  3. Is there something new that the team wants to start doing?
  4. Is there something that puzzles us?

Sprint retrospective goes by many names -post mortem meeting, project success meeting and after action review. The purpose of the meeting, however, remains the same-to implement continuous improvement by learning from the success and failure during the recent sprint or project.


Why do You Need Sprint Retrospective Meetings

Without sprint retrospective, teams will go through each sprint making the same mistakes, using the same methods, wasting time and getting nothing done. Sprint retrospectives can improve the way teams work in a short turnaround time with minimal resources. Here are the benefits that a sprint retrospective offers:

  1. The sprint retrospective allocates time to reflect and focus on improvement.
  2. Celebrate wins.This motivates the team as their efforts are being recognized.
  3. Dealing with problems as soon as they surface reduces the chances of irreparable damage.
  4. Build consensus for next steps.
  5. Encourage teams to brainstorm and develop solutions.


How to Start Agile Sprint Retrospective Meeting

When transitioning to agile methodology, It is challenging to conduct the first sprint retrospective. It involves three steps that can be implemented with ease.

  1. Review progress made during the sprint.
  2. Discuss hits and misses
  3. Plan next steps

Review Progress Made During the Sprint

The first step in a sprint retrospective is to develop a shared understanding of what actually happened. First review the sprint goal, timeline, resources allocated, resources used and progress metrics. This session involves updating everyone on the team about the entire sprint, even about parts of the sprint that they may not have been actively involved in. This step ensures that the entire team is armed with the right information to solve problems.

Discuss Hits and Misses

Discuss what went well and what didn’t go so well. The scrum master must be careful to allocate time for both hits and misses. Ensure that everyone on the team contributes what they have learned. This step is important as it serves as a guide to planning future actions.

Plan Next Steps

It’s not enough to just talk about areas that need improvement, Develop action plans and execute it. It is only when next steps are implemented that real change is possible. Ensure that the next steps are clear, unambiguous and time bound. Also, assign a directly responsible individual for each next step to improve accountability.


Step by Step Guide to Sprint Retrospective

The outcome of an effective sprint retrospective is meaningful change. Preparation is key to running a great sprint retrospective. Here is how you can prepare for and run this meeting.

Set the Agenda

The Agenda should contain the following sections

  1. Introduction/ Meeting Context
  2. Analyse Sprint Performance
  3. Learning from this Sprint
    • Success
    • Challenges
    • Other learning
  4. Set Priorities
  5. Action Items

Prepare for the Meeting

Determine who will be impacted by your meeting

Analyze who will be most impacted by the results of the meeting. It can impact your team or the entire organization.

Get a Report Ready

Gather all the information about the sprint such as goal, timeline, important events and compile into an easy to read report.

Schedule the Meeting and Invite the Team

Schedule the meeting at least three days in advance and send out the meeting invitation. Provide preparation guidelines along with your invite, so that attendees bring their observations and insights to the meeting.

Gather Supplies

Sprint retrospectives are more effective when visual representation is used. This may require sticky notes and markers. If using online tools, make sure everyone is familiar with these tools.

During the Meeting

Define the context

Welcome the attendees and define the meeting purpose. You can set the context beforehand or you can collaborate with your team and set it in real time. Setting the context eliminates anxiety and confusion. This results in an effective sprint retrospective. Create a safe place for employees to reflect on their work by stating the Prime Directive. ‘Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job he or she could, given what was known at the time, his or her skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.’

Use an Icebreaker

An icebreaker can energize and motivate your team. It creates a safe and friendly environment. Use activities that involve sharing information such as hobbies, etc. If your team has been working together for a long time, you can skip this session.

Analyse Performance and Gather Feedback

Gauge how the team feels about the sprint performance. Share the report and ask for feedback on what went well and the learning derived. Ask about successes, challenges and other insights.

Filter Feedback

As a team, you can cluster the insight gained into similar groups. Then discuss each of these clusters in detail. Due to limited time, some topics may not be discussed. You can use a voting system and pick 3 to 5 topics that will have the most impact.

Close with Next Steps

Turn the prioritized topics from the retrospective into next steps. Define who is responsible and by when it has to be completed. Follow up to ensure that work gets done.

Questions to Ask in a Sprint Retrospective

Other than the four key questions, other questions that can be used to gather useful insight are:

  1. What factors contribute to team success?
  2. What tools and techniques did you use in this sprint? Which ones were most effective?
  3. What was the most satisfying part of the sprint?
  4. What went wrong in this sprint? What according to you is the reason for this?
  5. What went well in this sprint? What have you learned from the successes?
  6. What was your biggest impediment?
  7. If you can change one thing in this sprint, what would it be?
  8. What is still not resolved? What is keeping you awake at night?
  9. If you were to start this sprint again, what advice would be most useful?

  Sprint retrospectives are a great way to implement continuous improvement. Teams become lean and agile. The challenge is to get actions that are doable and getting them done!