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March 03, 2023

The reflection of a Sprint Retrospective

Hybrid Management Project Management
Aleksandra Szmit Content Writer

If you have finished your Sprint, it is time for a reflection on it. That is what Sprint Retrospective is. But before we get into the details, let’s quickly recap. We have previously covered the planning stage of a Sprint, which is the Sprint Planning process. We’ve also discussed Daily Scrum meetings in more detail, which aim to meet every day to stay on top of current tasks. We’ve also covered the topic of a Sprint Review, which occurs right before the end of a sprint. So, now that your Sprint has come to an end, it is time for a Sprint Retrospective.

What is a Sprint Retrospective?

A Sprint Retrospective follows a Sprint Review, which happens right before the end of the Sprint. It takes place after the Sprint is finished – it is essentially a conclusion to the Sprint. It is an opportunity to reflect on the progress made during the whole Sprint. However, you could say that it is a meeting, which focuses on the things worth starting, stopping and continuing in the future.

It is an opportunity to discuss the whole Sprint, all the ups and downs, the progress, the key elements, the issues, problems which have risen, etc. This helps in exploring new ways to improve future projects and Sprints.

What is the aim of a Sprint Retrospective?

The goal of a Sprint Retrospective is for you and your Team to learn and develop. It’s a perfect opportunity for introspection. It also provides a moment for a Sprint recovery and Sprint preparation.

The purpose of holding a Sprint Retrospective is to:

  • Analyze how the most recent Sprint performed in terms of people, connections, interactions, processes, and the tools used.
  • Reflect on the successes and failures of the Sprint.
  • Determine areas which you can improve in future Sprints.
  • To plan new ways of working, increasing the quality and effectiveness of the Sprint.

According to the Scrum Guide, “the purpose of the Sprint Retrospective is to plan ways to increase quality and effectiveness.”

To reach these goals, it is important to consider some vital things.

A group of people standing aroung a whiteboard that presents different charts and data.

What should you consider during a Sprint Retrospective?

Since you’re looking for improvements, you should ask yourself and your Team questions, which may sound something like this:

  • Firstly: What went well? What did the team do well? What work was done well?

This question helps you celebrate the successful completion of your Sprint. It is a great opportunity to praise your Team and reflect on the things you did well.

  • What hasn’t worked well? What didn’t work out? What should be improved?

The best question to ask for you to figure out what you need to revise and look into in more detail. This question could help make new decisions or approach obstacles in a new way.

  • What could you improve? What could the Team work on, to do better?

However, with this question, you get the chance to explore different opinions from different points of view. That might help in implementing some new solutions or ideas for future Sprints.

These 3 questions are fundamental, as they help to establish the good, the bad and areas for improvement – which, as we know, is the aim of the Sprint Retrospective meeting.

Other ways of approaching the Sprint Retrospective

If you’re not a fan of questions and answers, you could try sharing an opinion on these subjects. Here are 3 prompts:

  • The team should start doing…
  • The team should stop doing…
  • The team should continue doing…

You may also try using some Atlassian templates. Some examples may include the Sad, Mad, Glad approach, the idea of the Sailboat or the idea of 4L (liked, learned, lacked, longed for).

A group of people discussing the different ways of approaching ways of conducting a Sprint Retrospective

Now that we know the fundamentals of what goes on during a Sprint Retrospective, we should quickly recap other technicalities.

Essential information regarding the Sprint Retrospective

Who takes part in the Sprint Retrospective?

Because the Sprint Retrospective takes place after the end of the Sprint, everyone on the Scrum Team should take part. This means that the Scrum Master, Product Owner and Developers are absolutely essential. The Scrum Master may help in facilitating the meeting, by preparing vital points, encouraging everyone to take part or by starting the meeting off with a fun ice-breaker.

Furthermore and contrary to the Sprint Review, the presence of the Stakeholders isn’t desired. As the event is aimed at the Team, the attendees should be limited to the necessary participants.

When is the Sprint Retrospective conducted, and how long should it last?

So, as mentioned above, the Sprint Retrospective comes right after the end of the Sprint. In terms of the Scrum Events, it takes place after the Sprint Review (which is conducted at the very end of the Sprint, before its end).

Generally, the Sprint Retrospective lasts according to the length of the Sprint. This means that a one-week sprint will have a much shorter Sprint Retrospective meeting in comparison to a month-long Sprint. This is the general rule:

  • 45 minutes for a one-week sprint
  • 1.5 hours for a two-week sprint
  • 2.25 hours for a three-week sprint
  • 3 hours for a month-long sprint

The length of the meeting might also be impacted by the number of attendees, how the teams are distributed (i.e. some members may be remote) or if everyone is up-to-date with all essential information.

Hands near a clock and information which desribes the length of a Sprint Retrospective

The benefits of a Sprint Retrospective meeting

There are plenty of benefits to conducting this meeting. Some of these, such as having a clear idea of improvements, an occasion for appreciating your Team etc, were already mentioned above. What other benefits are there?

  • Boosts the cohesiveness and independence of the team.
  • Allows the development of ideas for future Sprints.
  • It’s a chance to create a strategy for implementing changes to the sprint planning process.
  • Improves collaboration and communication within the Team.
  • Promotes transparency.
  • It is an opportunity to learn for everyone involved.
  • Helps optimize and improve future Sprints.
  • It also keeps everyone in the loop.

What is the difference between a Sprint Review and a Sprint Retrospective?

Even though the two may seem similar, they are different. Both of them are equally important, and neither should be avoided or replaced with the other. We’ve already talked about how these two differ – you can find the answer right here in our article about the difference between a Sprint Review and a Sprint Retrospective.

If you’re wondering how to tell the differences between the two meetings, make sure the agenda of the two is different. The agenda of a Sprint Review is much different. It aims on understanding the challenges and overcoming them, collecting feedback and showing progress, and many other things. A Sprint Review also focuses on the product, while a Sprint Retrospective focuses on the process. The Sprint Retrospective is more about the reflection on what has already happened and what could be improved in the future.

Now that you know all about the Sprint Retrospective and how it is different from a Sprint Review, you are ready to learn about some of the best practices for conducting a Sprint Retrospective meeting.

Sprint Retrospective: Best practises

First of all, remember that the meeting is within your Team so it is a good idea to remind everyone that it is a safe space for sharing, learning and having discussions. Its aim is not to blame anyone or point out mistakes done by individuals. Therefore, it is also important to make sure that everyone is aware that anyone can have a chance to speak and share their point of view. What are some of the best things to do so the meeting is effective and everyone feels heard and respected?

  • Make sure you discuss all arguments and imperfections in detail. Simply saying that something isn’t working isn’t sufficient.
  • Don’t overcomplicate or over-formalize the event.
  • Remember to celebrate the things that went well and show gratitude and appreciation.
  • Share a board on which the meeting will take place, to give people time to note down the subject they want to discuss and/or share the metrics they’d like to analyze during the meeting.
  • If participants aren’t very active, have some prompts ready (like the ones we’ve provided above).
  • Make sure you share the information and note the ideas so that it is easy to access for everyone.
  • If this isn’t your first time conducting a Sprint Retrospective, try to switch it up – use different techniques, introduce a ‘game’ or change the agenda.

People standing around with their thumbs up in fron of a whiteboard with data

We hope that with all this information, you will be able to conduct a successful and effective Sprint Retrospective meeting. Once your meeting comes to an end, we hope it gives you the valuable insights necessary for conducting a better Sprint in the future. So, what should you do at the end of the Sprint Retrospective meeting?

What happens next?

Once your meeting comes to an end, dedicate some time to wrap up your meeting. Make sure you quickly summarize the things that you have discovered and discussed during the meeting. Thank your Team for attending and participating. It’s good, if after each Retrospective you have some solid Action Points and an idea of who will take care of them and what their deadlines are. Finally, by the end of your meeting, you and your Team will have some fresh perspectives and ideas for future Sprints.

Do you feel like you now know how to successfully complete a Sprint and a Sprint Retrospective? We really hope so. Stay tuned for our next article of the Scrum Events series.