Sprint Retrospective is a shortened version of the traditional Agile Retrospective. A retrospective is an integral part of Scrum. It’s held at the end of each iteration and gives the product owner a chance to check how the team performed and how they can do things better next time. This article explores what a sprint retrospective is, how it works, and why you need it in your agile project.
What is a Sprint Retrospective?
Sprint Retrospective is a meeting held every two weeks. It aims to review how things went during the previous sprint cycle and how to improve. It’s held after a sprint review and before sprint planning. Additionally, it’s a vital part of the scrum framework for delivering, developing, and managing complex projects.
During the meeting, the members reflect on what they need to do better in the next sprint. The conference has rules designed to stop the members from judging each other and ensures that everyone leaves with concrete actions.
The scrum retrospective gives room for the team members to survey, discuss, participate and check anything affecting their products. It allows the scrum team to implement Scrum in their various situations.
What is the Primary Purpose of a Sprint Retrospective Meeting?
The sprint retrospective mainly makes the next sprint better. It’s a time for the team to identify and address issues that need improvement. It also analyses the state of the completed sprint basing on people, process, tools, and relationships.
The team identifies and notes the process that went well and those that failed. They also develop potential strategies for improvement and sets a plan for applying the improvements to ensure the project’s success.
The development team majorly concentrates on advancing the product quality by improving their work strategies. They ask themselves critical questions such as ways to improve the product quality and ensures they come up with a solution at the end of the meeting.
Who Takes Part in a Sprint Retrospective Meeting?
The sprint retrospective meeting comprises the scrum master, development team, and the product owner. The development team refers to all the people who are building, designing, and testing the product. These members play an essential role in identifying possible ways of product improvement.
The scrum master leads the meeting and motivates the development team to work toward improving their work. He offers the team ideas and showcases his expertise in the project. He additionally points out mistakes that may have been made in the project and ensures the members correct them.
The managers and stakeholders are not directly part of these meetings. Hence, they only attend when invited. They take part in the retrospective meeting when the scrum team demonstrates what they achieved during the sprint.
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The Agenda of the Retrospective Meeting
The agenda helps the team stay focused on the things they need to get done during a retrospective: make process improvements, remove blockages, and celebrate wins. The agenda should include:
- Setting the goal
The team should develop objectives of the meeting, i.e., aim to advance the daily scrum stand-ups, improve communication with product owners and stakeholders, and make realistic rules.
- Gathering essential data
The scrum master collects information on all the team member’s experiences and perspectives to ensure everyone stays informed.
- Developing insights
The team needs to identify impactful patterns and look at ways of improving on their output.
- Deciding on the next steps
The whole team highlights the challenges and problems they need to handle then puts in place a strategy to achieve success for each challenge.
- Closing the retrospective
The scrum master clarifies and summarizes the meeting, thereafter thanks the participants who made it to the forum.
How Efficient is a Sprint Retrospective?
The team conducts sprint retrospective meetings as the final session in a sprint. The conference takes place just after the sprint review and before the next sprint planning. It should incorporate a clearly defined goal. The primary focus of the current sprint is usually to review all related aspects of the scrum team process.
The primary key that the team needs to concentrate on is communicating and establishing their objectives before the retrospective meeting begins. That ensures the scrum team members agree on whether non-scrum team members should attend the meeting or not.
Additionally, the team can select practical retrospective exercises and have a maximum amount of time to gather and prepare any data they need for the smooth running of the retrospective.
Once the team establishes the scope and selects the individuals for the following retrospective, they choose the practical exercises to engage, think, and explore together. Activities in the standard retrospective include brainstorming insights and group and vote insights. However, they are not limited, and the team can select an exercise that favors a specific focus or participants.
Scrum Team Responsibility
The scrum team takes full responsibility for the sprint retrospective. They choose an appropriate location that promotes successful deliverables. However, few teams prefer the retrospective meeting to be in the standard team area to access large visible charts.
The charts give them the scope to advance the meaningful information. Some few members may also prefer not to meet in the common team area. It may be because they enjoy an environment with few emotional satisfactions where they feel reserved and free to talk.
These meetings should take place in a safe and secure environment where the members are free to share their thoughts. Apart from the scrum master, any team member can also facilitate the retrospective meeting. However, it’s best to choose a neutral, skilled facilitator who can guide the team members through a specific complex retrospective.
A company with multiple scrum teams with different scrum masters should always ensure all the members have a scrum master from each group to facilitate another scrum team. They should decide on who will lead the retrospective during the rework.
The scrum team splits into different ways to advance the quality of the product through adapting work processes relating to the definition of done.
Duration of Sprint Retrospective Meeting
The duration of the Sprint retrospective meeting is similar to the sprint review meeting, as it occurs at the end of each sprint. It should take place on the same day, at the same time, and at the same event. The length of a retrospective team can only be determined by:
- The number of participants in the team
- The location of the team members, whether remote or not
- The presence of new members etc.
The time box of a sprint retrospective meeting is four hours for a four-week sprint and two hours for a two-week sprint. However, the duration can be longer if there are misunderstandings among the team in the retrospective meeting.
Tips for Running an Effective Retrospective Meeting
For sprint retrospective meetings to be impactful, an organization should use the following tips:
- Create a conducive space
The environment in which an organization conducts the retrospective meeting should be friendly to allow members to give out their views without fear. For a retrospective meeting to be beneficial, the members need to openly talk about what made them fail and what they need to improve to better performance. Ensure the participant’s list is minimal and pay attention to the people invited to the meeting. Don’t invite people who will create fear among the members.
- Make a retrospective habit.
Establish a routine for your retrospectives and adhere to it. Always hold the meeting even if you feel you don’t have much to talk about. Once in the retrospective, you will be surprised at how many ideas the team has. Make it a habit to hold micro retrospectives where you discuss the achievements you have made and those you are still working on.
- Always look at the positives.
Most teams always concentrate on the things that didn’t go well and forget to mention those that did exceptionally well. Retrospectives aren’t meant only for the things an organization failed in but generally for all things, both failures and wins. Talking about the successes encourages the member to put more effort and achieve in those areas they failed. The team can learn from the measures they used to achieve their goal in a certain area and do the same for the others.
- Think outside the office
The team can also hold their retrospectives in a new environment away from the office. A new environment can increase the team’s creativity and encourage deeper thinking. It can also make the meeting enjoyable, and members can quickly come up with ideas for improvement.
- Bring in backup
The team needs to come up with a person who runs their product retrospective meeting. The person’s primary role is to watch and read the room while guiding the conversation in a significant direction, which ensures the team sticks to the agenda of the meeting.
Benefits of Sprint Retrospective Meetings
- Facilitates transparency
Retrospectives offer a team the platform and time to address the issues that they find significant. It also creates a safe environment where the members share the opinions freely without blame. It also helps the organization to gather feedback, and creates a comfortable environment for employees.
- Creates a communicative and collaborative environment
A compelling retrospective creates unity among the team and helps the members air their opinions openly. It lifts the team’s spirit, and they feel appreciated and that their views are important.
- Help identify issues earlier.
Retrospectives are an efficient tool that each organization needs for risk mitigation. They make it easy for an organization to discover issues early and look for possible remedies. The team openly shares their thoughts and suggests the central problem in a project and how to resolve it.
- Pinpoints process improvements
Retrospectives are an excellent tool for improvements. During the constant meetings, the team identifies the possible challenges and research on possible ways for improvement, which are essential for any organization.
Example/Application of Sprint Retrospective Meeting
A manufacturing industry usually holds its retrospective meeting after every four weeks with a time box of four hours. Their latest retrospective meeting was in May 2021, and this is how their meeting went: They appointed a scrum master who is an expert on the project, and he addressed the relevant questions and proposed practical solutions.
The team invited the right people to whom they were free to share their ideas with. They had already settled for the activities and exercises in advance, and they only had to discuss them in the meeting. During the meeting, the scrum master appreciated all the attendees for making it to the forum and immediately started their agenda.
Their first exercise was a warm-up for the team’s happiness, and the scrum master encouraged everyone to add a sticker to the board showing how they felt about their part in the sprint. The primary role of this exercise was to identify the people who need some help.
It turned out that the team was getting resource suggestions from consumers outside their target market, and they had a problem categorizing them. It gave the scrum master an impression of the problem that was more serious than he thought.
The scrum master kept everything non-anonymous since their team reinforces judgment-free openness. At the end of the meeting, the scrum master and the team recognized the activities that went well and those that require improvement as follows:
What Went Well?
- The team enjoyed working together
- Unique collaboration on the latest release
- Tough but productive conversation
- The sprint planning made it clear the things they needed to achieve and the role of each member.
What Needs Improvement?
- There were some unclear roles and responsibilities in the team
- Priorities were not very clear at the moment due to numerous requests from users
- They had some bottlenecks
The industry now had a clear picture of what they needed to work on. The team focused on this thing and, in the end, became successful.
Sprint retrospectives are essential to a company as they serve to get all the members on the same page. They allow the product owner to address issues that might be blocking their team from performing better. Sprint retrospective provides a good frequency for developers to get together, make progress on the product, and be productive. Thus, it’s very critical for a company to incorporate sprint retrospective meetings to ensure success of their projects.