What is a sprint retrospective?

A sprint retrospective, or “retro” as it’s often referred to, is a meeting that occurs at the end of each sprint or on an otherwise regular basis. The goal of the retrospective is to discuss what went well, what didn’t go well, and what to improve in the next sprint. At the end of the retrospective, the team should have a clear understanding of what to improve or change in the next sprint. The sprint retro, like backlog grooming and sprint planning is one of the ceremonies involved in agile methodology.

Sprint Retrospectives

A sprint retrospective helps identify areas to improve workflows, processes, and collaboration amongst the team. It is an opportunity for the entire team to raise concerns, suggestions, and introduce best practices.

It may seem silly to do a retrospective at first. After all, the very nature of retrospectives is to focus on what happened in the past, versus focusing on delivering work in the future. With that said, retrospectives can have a lasting and positive impact on the way a team works.

Why are sprint retrospectives important?

The main goal of a retrospective is to influence a culture of continuous improvement. Retros help ensure the team isn’t making the same mistakes over and over again. Team culture, quality of work, and business metrics can be positively impacted by this type of regular improvement.

Without doing retros, there is no safe space for a team to contribute towards improving workflows or processes. Retros can help bring the entire team together as a unit, and work to become better as one.

Who should attend?

Each retrospective should involve the agile team and a facilitator. Anyone who contributed something related to the work that was done in the sprint should be present at the retrospective. This typically involves engineers and designers but can also include writers, customer support, or other individual contributors.

Tips for successful retros

Conducting retrospectives takes practice. Here are some tips for facilitating sprint retrospectives.

  1. Make sure each retro has a designated facilitator. This should be the ScrumMaster, product or project manager, or a leader.
  2. Like any well-run meeting, prepare an agenda and stick to it. Create a safe environment and let everyone speak.
  3. Sprint retrospectives should not be complaint sessions. Make sure to focus on both the positives and negatives.
  4. Never criticize people. Only criticize actions and behavior.
  5. Retros should happen regularly – either after each sprint, or a weekly or biweekly cadence.
  6. Don’t try to change too much. Pick a few impactful things to focus on and continually make changes over time.

Conclusion

Regular retros are a critical ingredient for continuous improvement. They get teams running like well-oiled machines, effectively and efficiently, in the same direction. A culture of continuous improvement is a growing, exciting culture to be a part of. As teams do retros and make decisions to improve together, it brings the entire team closer.