Sprint Retrospective Meeting: How To Bring Value to the Table

A sprint retrospective is one of the four ceremonies of the Scrum. Learn what to avoid and how to run sprint retrospective meetings.

A sprint retrospective is one of the four ceremonies of the Scrum. At the end of every sprint, a product owner, a scrum master, and a development team sit together and talk about what worked, what didn’t, and what to improve.

The basics of a sprint retrospective meeting are clear to everyone, but its implementation is subjective.

Some think the purpose of a sprint retrospective meeting is to evaluate work outcomes. However, as per the Agile Manifesto, it is more about evaluating processes and interactions. It says, “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.”

Many scrum teams are not making most of the sprint retrospective meetings due to a lack of understanding. In this post, we will look at what to avoid in a sprint retrospective meeting and what to do to run an effective sprint retrospective meeting.

What To Avoid in a Sprint Retrospective Meeting?

A sprint retrospective meeting is an opportunity for the scrum team to come together and discuss the previous sprint with the purpose of making improvements in processes and interactions. But scrum teams often end up making a sprint retrospective meeting a negative talk of beating one another and less interesting due to the lack of implementation of outcomes of sprint retrospective meetings.

Here are a few things that you need to avoid in a sprint retrospective meeting:

1. Focusing on the Outcomes

The end goal of a sprint retrospective is undoubtedly increasing the sprint velocity of the team, but the process to do so is not talking about the outcome of the sprint. The focus is on finding areas that can be improved in processes and people to make it easy and efficient for the scrum team to work together.

2. Not Involving All Team Members’ Voice

The output of a scrum team is evaluated as a team, not as each individual. Therefore, it is important that each member of the Scrum team is heard. Thus, the equal participation of the team members is required in retros. If someone has issues and they are not addressing them, it is going to impact the sprint output as the members of the sprint team are highly dependent on each other to achieve sprint goals.

3. Talking Only About What Went Wrong

The purpose of a sprint retrospective is to make improvements, but it does not mean you do not talk about good things. We all are human beings and need appreciation. If you talk only about what did not work, a sprint retrospective will become more of a tool of blaming and beating each other rather than an instrument of improvement. Above all, it is important to talk about what went well so that you can replicate good things in the next sprint.

4. Not Taking Action on Retro Outcomes

The worst thing that can happen for a sprint retrospective is not taking action items derived from it. This will lead to a loss of interest and trust in sprint retrospectives as it sends a message to the team that their feedback is not valuable.

What To Do To Run an Effective Sprint Retrospective Meeting

There are some basics you can follow to run an effective sprint retrospective meeting. Have a look at them.

1. Create a Psychologically Safe Space for Everyone To Speak

It is the responsibility of a product owner and a scrum master to create a psychologically safe environment for everyone to speak up in the meeting to make a sprint retrospective successful.

If you are asking questions like what went well during the last sprint, what didn’t go well, and what should we do differently next time, everyone should feel safe to share their views without any repercussions.

2. Use a Framework

The best way to conduct an effective sprint retrospective meeting is to follow a template. Experts have created various frameworks for conducting effective sprint retrospective meetings. The top frameworks include:

  • Mad, Sad, Glad
  • Speed car retrospective
  • 4 L’s Retrospective
  • Continue, stop, and start-improve
  • What went well? What didn’t go well? What is to improve?

These frameworks help ensure that you are talking about processes, not people.

For example, the Mad, Sad, Glad framework talks about asking what makes the team mad, sad, and glad during the sprint and how we can move from mad, sad columns to glad columns.

Use a framework that works for your scrum team.

3. Have a Facilitator-In-Chief

Like any other meeting, a sprint retrospective meeting needs to have a goal, a summary, and a facilitator. Have a facilitator-in-chief to make sprint retrospectives valuable. Usually, the role is dedicated to the scrum master whose responsibility in sprint retrospective is to:

  • Set the agenda and goals of the sprint retrospectives.
  • Collect feedback from all the team members on the action items to talk about in the retro.
  • Defining the length of the meeting.
  • Follow up with action items implemented in the last sprints.
  • Summarizing the key action items for the next sprint.

4. Implement the Action Items

The responsibility of the scrum master does not end with a sprint retrospective. A scrum master needs to make sure that action items found in the sprint retrospective are implemented in the upcoming sprint.

Daily stand-up meetings are a great tool for the scrum master to ensure that the team is implementing what is agreed upon & discussed and making improvements. Also, you can see the results of sprint retrospectives in tangible terms with metrics like sprint velocity.

5. Positivity, Respect, and Gratitude for Everyone

Lack of engagement is the biggest challenge of sprint retrospectives in the long run. It occurs when action items are not worked on, people are not heard, and the focus is on negatives.

Cultivate positivity and have respect and gratitude for everyone. Talks about what can be improved rather than blaming individuals. Listen to others to mark respect and express gratitude to address everyone’s contributions.

Paired with the implementation of action items, you can ensure that your scrum team sees sprint retrospectives as an opportunity to improve.

Conclusion

Sprint retrospective is a great opportunity to look past what worked well, what went wrong, and what we can do ahead to improve. It is a great instrument for a business to improve efficiency, keep its workforce happy, and build products that both clients and end-customers love.

The only challenge is you need to utilize it appropriately. With insights shared in this post, there are high chances you will be able to run effective sprint retrospective meetings and bring actual value to the table.

You may also like