Sprint Retrospective: A Team Discussion On Agility!

By Nathan Cavet
Published: 3/11/21
definition backgroundSprint Retrospective: A Team Discussion On Agility!

The sprint retrospective is one of the scrum ceremonies that punctuate the progress of a project conducted according to the agile Scrum method.

This meeting is a retrospective control tool aimed at evaluating the work done and checking the progress towards the objectives, as well as the respect of deadlines. As part of a continuous improvement process, it provides a space for reflection in order to improve the efficiency and quality of the entire project.

What are the characteristics of this scrum meeting? Who are its participants? Let’s look at all its key aspects and the ingredients of a successful organization, in order to make the most of this team-building moment.

What is a sprint retrospective?

Definition

The sprint retrospective is a meeting or workshop that takes place at the end of each sprint and especially:

  • following the sprint review
  • before the upcoming sprint planning meeting

Scrum team members meet to reflect together on the sprint that has just finished. This time of exchange is an opportunity to:

  • analyze the work done,
  • to receive constructive feedback
  • to make proposals for improvement

What is the objective of the sprint retrospective?

Its main objective is to review:

  • what worked well in the sprint that just finished
  • what could be improved
  • what the team commits to doing in the upcoming sprint

This process optimizes the Scrum operation and allows all the learning to be passed on to the next sprint. Indeed, the framework of this scrum meeting encourages discussion and the sharing of:

  • points of view,
  • constructive criticism,
  • improvements to be implemented,
  • doubts,
  • advice,
  • etc.

This makes the retrospective scrum a regular feedback tool for the entire development team. This meeting also makes it possible to draw up an action plan to implement the changes identified and prepare the next backlog sprint.

Who participates in the sprint retrospective?

In order for this meeting to demonstrate its usefulness, each member of the Scrum team must participate, i.e.:

All participants should be familiar with the method used for the meeting and its purpose. The procedure must be understandable and clear to everyone.

The Scrum Master is usually the person who leads the meeting. In their role as moderator, they ensure that the meeting is conducted in an orderly manner, while maintaining its dynamism.

As a mediator, the Scrum Master must also be able to handle differences of opinion and eventual conflicts.

Duration of the retrospective

According to the Scrum Guide, it is advisable to apply a time box, i.e. a limit on the length of the meeting. For a 4-week sprint, the duration of the meeting should not exceed 3 hours.

However, for shorter sprints, the meeting duration should be reduced proportionally. Thus, this meeting usually lasts between 1.5 and 2 hours.

How to make a retrospective? A step-by-step guide

Step 1: Set the stage

The meeting can start with an opening workshop of about 15 minutes. It aims to take the temperature of the team while initiating exchanges. The idea here is to break the ice before getting to the heart of the matter and to create a climate of trust to facilitate the discussion.

For example, ask each person:

  • their current state of mind, how they feel,
  • their expectations for the retrospective,
  • a specific intention formulated for this session

This is also the time when the goals of the sprint retrospective can be announced.

Step 2: Gather data

This step aims to identify the highlights of the last sprint. Use this moment to gather information from team members.

Participants express their opinions about different aspects of the sprint that has just ended. This information should be kept on a medium such as:

☝ The Scrum Master must ensure that all participants express their opinions without filtering. They can group the problems encountered by the theme, in order to facilitate the development of the action plan for the next sprint.

The Mad Sad Glad

Very popular, this method provides an overview of events for which team members have felt angry, sad, or happy.

This helps identify the reasons and answers the following questions:

  • What should be stopped?
  • What can we improve?
  • What do we need to maintain?

The Speed Boat

This technique aims to analyze the elements that slowed down (anchor) and those that propelled the sprint forward (engine).

The Speed Car

This method allows you to focus on the next sprint, by gathering the ideas of the whole team on the following components:

  • the parachute: the obstacles encountered, which slowed down the sprint,
  • the engine: the strong points, which allowed acceleration during the sprint,
  • the ravine: the risks,
  • the bridge: actions to be implemented to bypass obstacles and improve sprinting

☝ Of course, even if these methods are considered effective, it is not mandatory to follow them. The sprint retrospective can indeed take place according to a personalized order decreed jointly by the team members or by the Scrum Master.

Find below examples of typical questions that may guide the conduct of this step:

  • How do you feel about this sprint?
  • What did you find easy and what did you find difficult to do?
  • What questions arose during the work process?
  • What can you improve?

Step 3: Generate insight

This is a crucial moment to discuss possible improvements to be implemented. It takes the form of a brainstorming session in order to generate as many ideas as possible.

Whichever method is chosen to encourage interaction, it is essential to ensure that everyone speaks up. In a working group, there are often different personalities which are more shy and introverted, thus less inclined to express themselves.

☝ This is where the Scrum Master must intervene to encourage the participation of even the most reluctant members. As moderator and mediator of the meeting, their role is also to:

  • frame the exchange time,
  • redirect the discussion on essential topics.

This is a good way for people to share and participate actively in the smooth running of the project.

Step 4: Decide what to do

All the ideas exchanged must be able to be translated into concrete action to be put into practice.

To do this, it would be wise to select a limited number of ideas (4 or 5 maximum) so that they can be implemented in the next sprint. Once defined and validated by the participants, these actions will be distributed among the team members and integrated into the planning.

Step 5: Close the retrospective

To close the meeting, the facilitator can collect feedback on the session’s progress, in order to improve future feedback.

To this end, the facilitator can probe the opinions of the participants and invite them to share their comments and suggestions for improvement.

Time for reflection to optimize future actions

Finally, this meeting is at the heart of the continuous improvement process specific to agility.

In addition to this reflexive approach to moving forward, the sprint retrospective has the advantage of increasing productivity and cooperation within the team by offering a place for constructive exchanges.

Do you have any advice on how to get the most out of your Scrum retrospectives? Feel free to share your experiences below!

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