Scrum allows plenty of opportunities for improvement. However well the work is going, there is always scope for just a little bit more fine-tuning of work, streamlining of processes or ironing out of impediments that hinder progress. A retrospective is the event during which all this introspection happens; where the team sits together to figure out what went well, and what didn’t, during the just completed sprint.
In this blog post, we’ll help you understand what happens during a Retrospective, how it falls in line with Agile values, and how a successful retrospective can be run. Sharing some ideas and tips from Agile experts who have been there and done that!
‘The purpose of the Sprint Retrospective is to plan ways to increase quality and effectiveness.’- Scrum Guide
A Sprint Retrospective is one of the most important Scrum events, and takes place just after the Sprint Review and before the start of the next Sprint. It is a session for the team to reflect on everything that happened during the just completed sprint. While this is not always a time-boxed event, the Retrospective usually runs for around 3 hours for a one-month sprint.
One of the most significant ways in which Agile scores over traditional processes is that it gives plenty of opportunities for the team to continually improve themselves, and in doing so, come up with a product of high quality. The retrospective can be considered as a safe space for team members to open up and discuss their processes and ways of working, analysing them for possibilities of improvement.
The retrospective is, therefore, the event that builds on the team’s capabilities, efficiency and quality—and improves, fine-tunes and refines the product quality in the process.
The team identifies past mistakes and pitfalls, finds out solutions to prevent them from happening again, and figures out ways to improve themselves for the next sprint.
The purpose of the retrospective is to evaluate how the just-completed sprint went, with respect to interactions between people, tools used, processes followed, and tasks completed.
Typically, these questions are answered:
After a detailed discussion on all aspects of the sprint, they will create a plan for the next sprint, putting in place measures for improvement in the way the team works.
The sprint retrospective is usually attended by the entire Scrum team, including the Scrum Master, Product Owner and Developers. The developers include all those who are designing, coding and testing the product, and they can come up with a whole lot of valuable inputs for process improvements that the Scrum Master and Product Owner may not have visibility into.
While some teams like to bring in an outside Agile coach or facilitator, in most teams it is the Scrum Master who sets up and facilitates the Retrospective meeting. He or she asks questions and encourages team members to come up with their own perspective on how to improve workflow practices within the Scrum process framework.
Stakeholders and managers who are not directly part of the team are not required to come to a Scrum retrospective. This is a time for the team to have a candid and open discussion between themselves, and they might not do so if stakeholders are present. They do, however, attend the Sprint review meeting instead, and give feedback on the product increment that has been demoed.
The best way to run a successful retrospective is to keep it simple. Mike Cohn, Agile expert and coach, suggests using the start-stop-continue approach. Each member, in turn, is asked to identify things that the team should START doing, STOP doing and CONTINUE doing. They can be asked to give reasons for each.
Once everyone has had their say and a list of ideas has been brainstormed and noted down, the team can be asked to vote on a number of items that should be given attention during the upcoming sprint. They could compare this with the similar list that was drawn up during the previous retrospective, and reflect on how much, if at all, the team has improved — or if they have not really improved, they could find out the reasons why. Either way, the idea behind this event is to make the team start talking and collaborating on ways to improve. Each team can figure out what works best for them and follow that as a practice.
A well conducted retrospective, where the team is able to safely discuss the just-completed sprint without fear of blame or retribution, is very beneficial to the project. The outcome is actionable and leads to tangible improvement in agile. Some of the benefits are:
Here are some time-tested and proven tips to run a successful retrospective, from Agile experts:
A Final Word
A sprint retrospective provides the perfect platform for the team to discuss ideas and share their experiences of the just-completed sprint. It empowers the team, setting the stage for continuous improvement and allowing for smoother collaboration and communication. Ultimately, this is what shapes the final product and results in an impactful outcome.