Sprint Retrospective

The definition of Sprint Retrospective

In Scrum, the Sprint Retrospective is the final event of the Sprint and concludes the Sprint.

The intent of the Sprint Retrospective is for the team to inspect the sprint, how it went, how they worked together and seek to continually improve.

The Sprint Retrospective is similar to a post-implementation review. However, rather than waiting until the end of a project, this is conducted at the end of each Sprint.

During the Sprint Retrospective the Scrum Team gathers to continually improve the way they work together.

Where the Sprint Review is focused on the “what”, the Retrospective is focused on improving “how” the team worked together during the Sprint. It should be timeboxed to a maximum of 3 hours for a four-week Sprint. Or, a maximum of 90 minutes for a two-week Sprint.

The Sprint Retrospective is regarded as one of the most important events in Scrum, yet is often the first to be skipped. This is because the regular and continual improvement is critical to high performing teams. Effective retrospectives can reduce waste, increase throughput and lead to better outcomes.

The Sprint Retrospective should be a safe space. The Scrum Team should feel psychologically safe enough to raise concerns, issues and improvement suggestions. The prime directive of the Sprint Retrospective is:

“Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.”
—Norm Kerth

The Prime Directive is a reminder that during the Sprint Retrospective, we acknowledge that all team members performed their best given the information they had and the situation at the time.

Nothing that is said during the Retrospective is personal, it’s performance focused, around what happened not on who did it.

The Sprint Retrospective can be as simple as discussing “what went well”, “what didn’t go so well” and identifying action items for improving.

However, a typical Retrospective will follow the following 5 steps:

  1. Set the stage: Set the goal, give people time to arrive and get into the right mindset for the Retrospective.
  2. Gather data: Help everyone remember what happened during the Sprint and generate a pool of information from each person’s unique perspective.
  3. Generate insight: Why did things happen the way they did? Are there any patterns?
  4. Decide what to do: Pick the top issues to work on and create an action plan on how you intend to address them as a team.
  5. Close the retrospective: Clarify action items. How could the team improve the Retrospective?

Any action items identified in the Retrospective should make their way into the following Sprint’s backlog. It’s important that the Scrum Team creates space to complete their Retrospective action items.

Anyone can facilitate the Retrospective however it is most common for the Scrum Master to facilitate them. Having a neutral facilitator can be beneficial to remove biases and elicit honest feedback for the team to improve. However, having a neutral facilitator is not mandatory.