Overview of the sprint retrospective process

Agile: Overview of Sprint Retrospective

Our last blog focused on the sprint review meeting, now we will look at what happens next, the sprint retrospective.

The sprint retrospective allows the scrum team to inspect itself and identify improvements that can be acted upon in the next sprint.

Facilitated by the Scrum Master, the team discusses how the next sprint might be more productive based on the previous sprint.

Why have a sprint retrospective?

Agile’s main purpose is to aid continuous development, and so the agile team need to put in place mechanisms to support this.

The sprint retrospective allows the team to continuously develop and improve throughout the project, and share feedback about work and progress that is open, honest, and most importantly constructive.

This meeting isn’t the place to air complaints. The team should work together to find solutions to issues and create action plans going forward.

Who is involved?

The sprint retrospective is time-boxed (usually one hour per week of the sprint), and involves the scrum master, product owner and scrum team.

The process

Held after the sprint review, the sprint retrospective poses questions to each member of the team, enabling each individual to self-identify which parts of the sprint went well, and which could be improved. The main questions asked are:

  • Which aspects of the sprint went well?
  • Are there any aspects that need to be changed?
  • How will those changes be implemented?

Once discussed, there are additional topics that the Scrum Master may want to cover:

Results

How does the work completed by the development team compare with the planned work? Reviewing the sprint burndown chart will assist with this.

People

The composition of the team and it’s alignment should be discussed to ensure that the project team has all the skills needed to successfully complete the next sprint. The relationship between team members should also be explored with emphasis on communication, collaboration and team working.

Processes and tools

The processes and tools used during the sprint should be scrutinised to ensure that they are still working effectively.

Productivity

Identify any areas where the team can improve their productivity and maximise their work capacity.

Benefits of the sprint retrospective

As the sprint retrospective is held at the end of every sprint, the project team is continually reviewing and improving the way they work.

As every member of the process is involved and their views valued, the sprint retrospective builds the team’s self-management and sense of ownership. This supports team bonding and formation, allowing any areas of potential conflict to be identified and handled appropriately. 

How to improve sprint retrospectives

If you are a scrum master facilitating a sprint retrospective, or a project team member involved in the discussion, you may want to identify areas where the retrospective can be improved, after all, this is agile! These simple tips may help:

  • Ensure all members involved have a copy of the notes and actions from the previous retrospective and review them at the beginning of the meeting.
  • Let team members air their views without interruption.
  • There may be many items to take action on, vote on which should be a priority and then create an action plan of those priorities.
  • When problems are identified, consider using Sakichi Toyoda’s “5 whys” technique to drill down to the root of the problem.
  • Allocate time for improvement actions.
  • Record the retrospective and the actions for review at the next meeting.