· 5 min read ·
An agile sprint retrospective generally has 5 to 7 Steps. You can combine some of them together or drop some depending on the needs of your team. As long as you cover all the aspects of the retrospective it doesn’t matter the number of steps you break it down into. We have broken it down into 7 steps. Let’s look at each of them.
I have seen a lot of teams conduct retrospectives week after week but somewhere down the line they forget the pre-requisites for having a successful retrospective. It is important to reiterate before you start the retrospective meeting that it’s a safe place where people can voice their opinion without judgment, without repercussions. That the focus of the meeting is process and not individuals. Hence spelling out the Retrospective Prime directive described by Norm Kerth, Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Review should become part of every agile retrospective your team undertakes. It states
“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.”
This enables everyone to participate freely and help provide a true picture of the real state of things.
Everyone is unique. Some people thrive in group settings, others not so much. It is important to keep this in mind. Icebreakers are a great way to get people comfortable, get them talking. It’s the start of the dialog and enables people to get used to talking and listening in a group setting. Icebreaker questions are designed to be fun, get a few laughs and at the same time get the users to tell the group a bit about themselves. By the end of it everyone feels a bit more closer to the group. Some examples of icebreaker questions are:
We have compiled a list of over 300 icebreaker questions for you to choose from to kickoff your next retrospective meeting.
The goal behind every retrospective format is the same. It’s to find out the state of the last sprint, the state of the people and what to do moving forward. There are a lot of formats you can chose from. You can either stick to one format or keep things interesting by switching things up and try out new formats every now and then. It will depend on your team. Some teams like to try out different things others take comfort in familiarity.
Here is a long list of formats that might help you chose one.
To make the blog easier to follow let’s assume we are using the Start Stop Continue retrospective format for this meeting.
This is the individual part of the exercise. Each member of the team spends a few minutes(10-15 mins) going over each column and filling out their experience. Before you start typing out, step back and take some time to reflect on the sprint. Try and recap the key moments of the sprint and how it impacted you and the final outcome.
There are numerous benefits of this step:
Now go over each section of the format and jot down your experience in each column:
After everyone has completed each section the moderator can move on to the next stage.
At this stage all the collective feedback is looked at by the group together. A lot of people will have something similar to say about the sprint. But at the same time a lot of people will have something completely different which will leave you wondering. That’s the great thing about having an individual as well as a group component for the retrospective meeting. The benefits of the group exercise are:
After you have grouped similar feedback together we move on to the next stage.
Retrospective meetings are democratic. You move forward either through consensus or through voting. Every participant gets a limited number of votes. Everyone votes together. Voting enables the team to set the priority on which items to tackle first. Voting is generally followed by a short discussion to figure out what to do next. This leads us into the next and the last stage of the agile sprint retrospective.
The team now comes up with an action plan to make progress on the issues identified. A good action plan should have the following information:
This is often the place where most retrospectives fail to serve their purpose. Coming up with a practical action plan to tackle prioritized issues is of paramount importance .
If you come back for your next retrospective and no progress has been made on the last action plan then you have a problem! You need to find out why that is happening. Otherwise the retrospective will lose its purpose and become just another meeting ☹️