Sprint retrospective provides opportunities to identify improvements for the team to improve from a process and people perspective. It is the last event in a Sprint and happens immediately after the Sprint Review. No matter how mature or great the Scrum teams are, there is always room for improvements and the objective is to inspect how the last Sprint went with regard to people, relationships, processes and tools.
The entire Scrum Team participates in the Sprint Retrospective. According to the Scrum Guide, the Scrum Master participates as a peer team member in the meeting from the accountability over the Scrum process. The meeting is time-boxed to three hours for a one-month Sprint and adjusted accordingly to shorter Sprints.
It is Important to create a safe environment so team can conduct their retrospectives freely. Teams review in the beginning of the retrospective as to how they have improved from their own feedback and identify new items to improve on for future sprints. Although the Sprint retrospective provides formal opportunities to inspect and adapt, teams shouldn’t restrict themselves to inspect and adapt.
There are several ways of conducting a Sprint Retrospective. A good book on retrospectives that I have read is the “Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great” by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen. I usually use the following steps in my retrospectives but use different techniques and/or creative ways of conducting a retrospective:
- Set the stage (Make the teams feel safe, comfortable for a conversation)
- Gather data (ScrumMaster can use several creative/different facilitation techniques)
- Generate Insights (Usually asking a “why” to expand to connect the dots, identify patterns and connections.
- Decide what to do (based on insights generated, the team creates an action plan for improvements). It’s important to pick a couple of items to improve on, rather than a lot because it’s important to focus on what matters the most to the Team.
- Close the retrospective – Wrap up, summarize
Don’t do this:
If some elements of the retrospective are missing, the opportunities for identifying valuable improvement opportunities are lost. Teams won’t get full benefits of a Sprint Retrospective, if they create these anti-patterns (please listen to my webinar on Agile Anti-patterns posted here):
- Just a formality – finishing it quickly
- Repetitive discussions
- Continuous complaining session
- Not reviewing the previously identified improvement items
- Not coming up with any improvement ideas
- Not creating a safe environment for team to express freely
- Same folks contributing to the retrospective
This is a key inspect and adapt opportunity and I really like Principle #12 that supports the Agile Manifesto:
Regularly, the team reflects on how to become more effective, and adjusts accordingly.