What is a Sprint Retrospective?
A Sprint Retrospective is a regularly scheduled event where members of a Scrum Team reflect on their way of working, as part of the inspect and adapt process, in a spirit of continuous improvement. Some Agile practitioners consider the Sprint Retrospective to be the most important of the five Scrum events, and especially in the hands of an experienced facilitator, it can make a significant difference for many teams.
What’s the Benefit of a Sprint Retrospective?
Sprint Retrospectives ensure the team has time to reflect, celebrate and improve. Quality Retrospectives enhance team engagement, empower the team to solve process-related issues, and improve overall performance.
At the end of every Sprint, and thus before Sprint Planning. The duration of a Sprint Retrospective can vary, with 30 minutes typically being the minimum amount of time. Sprint duration can also be in important consideration in the length of a Sprint Retrospective, where the longer the Sprint is, the longer the Sprint Retrospective tends to be, since there is more team history to talk about.
Who attends a Sprint Retrospective?
- Scrum Master (Facilitator)
- Product Owner
Note: It is customary for the only attendees to be members of the Scrum Team (as described above). If other people are present, it can impact the nature of the conversation that the team has, and can act as a barrier to psychological safety.
- Metrics and outcomes of the current Sprint
- The action items from the previous Sprint Retrospective
- Being open to change
- One or more action items the team agrees may improve performance, often in the form of S.M.A.R.T. Goals.
- Some teams enter action items items in the Sprint Backlog, or in an Improvement Backlog, so that the action items remain visible.
Preparing for Success
The team should reflect on the outcomes of the most recent action items from the previous Sprint Retrospectives, the outcomes from the current Sprint, and and also think about items to celebrate or improve.
Since Sprint Retrospectives require the team to reflect and ask what can sometimes can be difficult questions, it’s critical for the facilitator to find ways to keep the conversation from focusing on the same questions or using the same techniques each time, to ensure the process does not become stale.
There are many ways to facilitate retrospectives. Regardless of the facilitation approach, what’s most critical is that all team members have a chance to express their views openly and honestly, and that the team agree on at least one actionable improvement.
5-Step Agile Retrospective
In the book Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great, Esther Derby and Diana Larsen outline five steps that can be helpful when designing and facilitating retrospectives, as described below.
- Set the Stage
Quickly review the guardrails for the conversation and have everyone greet each other. It’s common to also ask each attendee for a short, one-to-five-word check in. It may also be helpful at this point to review metrics and celebrate outcomes from the Sprint that is just ending.
- Gather Data
Get feedback and input from the Team. Brainstorm on what went well and what needs to be improved.
- Generate Insights
Find ways to probe into the “why” behind the data gathered in the previous step. Look for patterns in and lessons from the data.
- Decide what to do
This is the most critical stage, where the team agrees on actionable steps for improvement, including how it can be known that the improvement(s) is/are realized.
- Close the Retrospective.
This last step is an opportunity to express appreciations and leave people feeling like they have had a meaningful conversation which can lead to real improvement.
- It is vital that the facilitator be impartial. Some organizations get good results by having Scrum Masters guest-facilitate Sprint Retrospectives for other teams, which can help cross-pollinate facilitation techniques and ensures facilitators don’t have too much bias.
- A Sprint Retrospective is the engine of continuous improvement, since it occurs so frequently. Facilitators should change facilitation techniques often to help teams stay thoughtful and creative.
- Sprint Retrospectives require psychological safety more than any other Scrum event. Remind team members to focus on the process and not the people.
- Ensure there is time to celebrate and connect to build engagement and empowerment.
- Be careful in taking on too many action items, as it can become difficult to achieve measurable results for multiple items and deeply understand what items lead to improvement.
- If results from previous Sprint Retrospective did not meet expectations, consider trying to make progress on the action item for a little longer. In some cases, the team needs more time to learn to implement the action item, and a little additional practice may be all that’s needed.
Sprint Retrospective Video
Sprint Retrospective Podcasts
Sprint Retrospective Example
Authored by Steve Moubray
Edited by Philip Rogers
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