According to a 2016 study, the reason behind every organization's repetitive mistakes is the complex process of learning and forgetting. For example, when a company makes mistakes in the sales process, it learns where to focus in order to sell a new product effectively. However, if the company does not learn or forgets what it has learned, it will probably make the same mistakes again.
Therefore, companies need to conduct regular sprint retrospectives to reflect and learn from their past errors. Retrospectives help organizations identify areas to improve and change their business processes. As a result, companies can improve their overall performance and avoid repeating their mistakes.
What Is a Sprint Retrospective
A sprint retrospective refers to a meeting held at the end of a sprint to review the past sprint and identify potential improvements for the next one. The meeting is usually facilitated by the Scrum Master and attended by the Product Owner, developers, and other stakeholders.
The purpose of a sprint retrospective is to get everyone in the same room to discuss what went well, what didn't, and identify areas to improve on.
During a sprint retrospective, the following issues may be discussed:
- What are the sprint's objectives?
- What was successful throughout the sprint?
- What went wrong during the sprint?
- How were the sprint objectives met?
- What did you learn throughout the sprint?
- What suggestions do we have for future sprints?
How You Can Use Others’ Examples to Improve Your Sprint Retrospective Meeting
Holding a retrospective meeting must result in a fruitful and actionable outcome for the team. Often, this means looking for inspiration and examples from other teams' retrospective meetings.
There are some ways to use retrospective meeting examples to improve your own discussions:
1. Look for Ideas
When looking for retrospective ideas, it's helpful to see how other teams have tackled specific problems. For example, maybe you're trying to improve communication within your team, or are looking for ways to reduce blockers. Seeing how others have handled similar issues can give you ideas for possible solutions or even just how to frame the problem.
2. Understand Processes
It's also helpful to understand other teams' processes in their retrospective meetings. This can give you a better idea of what works well and what doesn't. You might find that a team uses a process you haven't considered before. Or, you might realize that what you've been using isn't as effective as you thought.
3. Compare and Contrast
Finally, you can use sprint retrospective examples to compare and contrast different teams. This can help you understand what works well in one team and not in another. You might also find that different teams have different priorities. For example, one team might focus on process improvement, while another team might focus on communication.
Things to Avoid During Sprint Retrospective Meetings
Any team running a retrospective is at risk of red flags. That's why you must watch out for these things to avoid miscommunication and hurt feelings in your retrospective meeting:
1. Don't be judgmental.
Your team is trying to identify areas for improvement, and it's important to do so constructively. Avoid any judgmental language that will make others feel attacked.
2. Avoid personal insults.
Just like being judgmental, insulting someone's work or personal abilities will only lead to hurt feelings and decreased productivity.
3. Stop trying to fix everything.
This is a meeting to identify areas of improvement, not to solve all the world's problems. Try to focus on one or two things that you can address soon.
4. Don't be defensive.
If someone offers an idea for improvement, try not to get defensive. Instead, listen to what they have to say and see if there's any truth to it.
5. Don't use the same format every time.
Your team's needs will change over time, so it's important to be flexible with your retrospective meeting format. Try different methods to see what works best for you.
Examples of Different Sprint Retrospectives
As mentioned, you need to use various formats of sprint retrospectives so you can get the most out of the meeting. Furthermore, certain retrospective exercises may be a better fit for specific situations and circumstances.
What Went Well Retrospective
The What Went Well retrospective has been a staple of the Agile community. Under this retrospective, the team takes some time to reflect on the good things that happened during the sprint. This can be anything from meeting the sprint goal to a team member going above and beyond to help out.
The key benefit of this retrospective is that it allows the team to focus on the positives, improving team morale. Additionally, it can help build team cohesion by showing that members can work together to achieve a common goal.
For example, if you have successfully won over a client for your furniture services, a What Went Well retrospective might involve discussing the tactics that led to the success. This could include everything from the sales pitch to the delivery of the final product.
Another example is the successful implementation of a new process or tool. If there were no major issues with the roll-out, the team might want to focus on what made the implementation successful. This could involve looking at everything from the planning stages to the actual execution.
Mad Sad Glad Retrospective
This type of retrospective is based on the "5 Whys" technique and helps team members share their thoughts and feelings about the project.
For instance, if you're using this retrospective to provide a solution for a customer’s complaint, you might have the following three columns:
- Mad: Things that made the customer angry.
- Sad: Things that made the customer sad or disappointed.
- Glad: Things that made the customer happy.
Then, you can brainstorm solutions for each problem.
For example, if the consumer was upset because of a defective product, develop a plan to evaluate items more thoroughly. If they were disappointed because of a late shipment, think of ways to increase communication with the delivery business. Finally, if they were pleased to get a coupon for their next purchase, develop a strategy to provide additional coupons and promos in your customer loyalty programs.
Start, Stop, Continue Retrospective
If your retrospective aims to review all your team members' actions and consequences, the start, stop, continue format is a good option.
You can use the following sprint retrospective template (with respective sample answers) to help get you started:
1. What started well during the sprint?
- We completed the user stories we set out to do.
- We were able to demo a working product to the client.
2. What stopped working during the sprint?
- We didn't meet our delivery date.
- We didn't finish all the user stories.
3. What should continue from the last sprint?
- We should continue tracking our progress using burndown charts.
- We should continue having regular demos with the client.
Once team members have answered these questions, have a group discussion to reach a consensus.
DAKI, also known as the Drop, Add, Keep, Improve retrospective, is simple to understand and use. The steps are:
- Drop: Remove anything that is not working.
- Add: Add anything that is missing.
- Keep: Keep what is working well.
- Improve: Improve what can be improved.
The DAKI retrospective is an excellent tool for teams to focus on what is working and can be improved on. Monitoring and optimizing areas for improvement allows teams to continue enhancing their products and workflows.
Suppose your team is discussing a new clothing line. The team might have been working hard on its development and launch, but some areas might have to be changed. So, you hold a DAKI retrospective wherein your team considers dropping certain designs that don’t appeal to the market, adding new color choices, keeping styles that adhere to your vision, and improving marketing plans.
Once you have identified what needs to be done, your team will better understand how to move forward. For example, team members may conduct better research into the target market, revise design elements, or work with a different fabric supplier.
The Remote retrospective has become mainstream in the last 2 years, almost every single team has become familiar with what they are and how they’re run. Specifically, a Remote retrospective should go through the following:
- Reviewing the work: Reviewing the past Sprint should be the beginning of the retrospective, as to remind everyone of what was accomplished
- Discussing: Most of the meeting should then be an open discussion amongst team members who were involved in the Sprint
- Actionable commitments: The goal of the meeting is for the team to come up with actionable ideas for the next iteration
The idea of the remote retrospective is to create an open and engaging environment despite not being in a room with the team. This means that the open discussion section is vital to get right because it will dictate how much the team shares with each other.
For example, a remote customer success team working in healthtech would use the remote retrospective like this:
- Reviewing the work: This Sprint, we achieved the following: improved client outreach, replied to every customer complaint, started monitoring reply time to customers
- Discussing: I think we improved as a cohesive team unit this sprint however, I think if we started daily stand up meetings we would become more aligned and would reduce the risk of duplicate work
- Actionable commitments: Let’s start a daily standup at 9:15am each day where we’ll debrief and keep everyone up to date with what’s going on
Lean Coffee Retrospective
The Lean Coffee retrospective is a great way to let the team steer the retrospective in whatever direction they would like. Team members vote on issues that they’d like to discuss, then these points are raised in the following format:
- To do: What work must still be completed?
- Doing: What is currently still being worked on?
- Done: What work has been completed?
The Lean Coffee format is very democratic, meaning the team can decide what they want to talk about. It’s also very simple and easy to understand and use. For example, a team having a retrospective using the Lean Coffee retrospective would look like this:
- To do: Figure out how to stop fighting amongst ourselves
- Doing: Collect customer feedback on new features
- Done: Finish QA testing on all new features, then push them to production
The Sailboat Retrospective is a fun way for your team to reflect on the past Sprint, and set goals for the next Sprint. The format would look like this:
- What makes us go fast: What are the things that make us work well?
- What’s holding us back: What is blocking the team from progressing?
- What risks do we have: What are threats to the team’s progression
- What is our goal and vision: What are we striving for?
For example, if a team using the Sailboat retrospective to review the last Sprint would look something like this:
- What makes us go fast: Timely reviews and comments!
- What’s holding us back: Distractions around the Office
- What risks do we have: Bugs
- What is our goal and vision: $25,000 of sales in one month
The 4Ls retrospective is characterized by asking your team four questions:
- Liked: What did you like about how things were done in the previous Sprint?
- Learned: What new things did you learn in the previous Sprint?
- Lacked: What did you feel was lacking in this Sprint i.e. What could have been better?
- Longed for: What things do you wish you had in the previous sprint, but for some reason weren't available?
The 4Ls Retrospective is best utilized when a project has just recently been completed, so team members can still remember the key detail and answer the questions most effectively. For example, one team members answers for the 4Ls retrospective might look like this:
What was completed during the Sprint: Redesigned the Company Home Page
- Liked: I liked that we did not have that many unplanned items come up during the sprint.
- Learned: I learned that open communication within teams is really important for a projects success.
- Lacked: We did not have enough time to get through the entire sprint backlog.
- Longed for: I wish we would have refined our backlog more so that the Sprint was more manageable in terms of workload.
This team now can reflect, and implement solutions so that the team can improve for the next Sprint. This team might look to invest in spending an extra backlog refinement session before the sprint so that the team can set realistic expectations for themselves. However, they also know that they must continue the great level of communication that they had because it helped them reach their goals.
Oscar Academy Awards Retrospective
The Oscar Academy Awards retrospective are is great way to involve each member of your team in your Sprint Retrospective. This activity is done by creating categories such as:
- Best in Communication
- Best in Personal Motivation
- Best in Leadership
- Best in Attitude and Cooperation
- Best Story
- Most Annoying Story
- Best Ability to Solve Problems
A "winner" is found for each category through team consensus and once know, the name is called out. The beauty of this activity is that the list of questions are not definitive, any category can be created based on your team and the sprint you just had. This way you can be sure to involve every member of the team. For example, a B2C e-commerce dev team running the Oscar Academy Awards retrospective might look like:
- Most Annoying Story: Making the background change color when clicked
- Longest Tas: Going through the entire Bug log
- Greatest Team Player: Gregory was the best team player this Sprint!
- Best in Attitude: Samantha always remained an optimist and never let her head fall
The Iteration retrospective is made up of 4 main questions that will be asked to the team:
- What worked during the Last Sprint?
- What didn't work during the Last Sprint?
- Which team member are you really appreciative for?
- Rate the past Sprint from 1 to 5 (5 being top)
After being asked the questions, the team will discuss everyone's answers and record all the points raised. These answers can then be referred back to during progress reviews of the project, to see if the goals were met or not. For example, a team working in the automotive Industry might use the Iteration retrospective after finishing a Sprint ad it would look something like this:
- What's working: We're getting a lot of great customer feedback
- What's not working: Music out loud was a good idea, but we can never agree on anything.
- Who's been a superstar: Paulie cranked it out last Sprint
- How would you rate the Sprint: 4
The Starfish retrospective is made up of five components:
- What should we keep doing?
- What should we keep doing, but less of?
- What you should we keep doing, and do more of?
- What should we start doing?
- What should we stop doing?
Once completed, the team members should discuss each question and talk about what they wrote. The answers will help the team align on their thoughts and feelings from the last sprint. An example of what the Starfish retrospective could look like is:
- What should we keep doing: We should continue working as a team
- What should we keep doing: but less of: We should still meet as a team each week, but do it less often - too frequent meetings can be unproductive
- What you should we keep doing, and do more of: We should increase the amount we communicate as a team
- What should we start doing: We should start doing individual code reviews as we go
- What should we stop doing: We should stop the daily standups, they aren't producing value
These answers can prompt the team to alter the way they do things for the next project. For example, they might decide to cut daily standups and only have 1-2 weekly alignment meetings. They will also push each to openly communicate more especially if some of the team are working remote - the will try and update the team slack channel when they have value to share.
3 Little Pigs Retrospective
The 3 little Pigs retrospective takes 3 concepts from the popular fable that represent the characteristics of the last Sprint:
- The House of Straw: What things weren't stable/weren't really working in the last sprint
- The House of Sticks: What thigs were partially solid, but still lacking structure and strength
- The House of Bricks: What things worked well in the last Sprint
Each concept represents the team's attitude and sentiment towards the last Sprint. The open ended nature of the sections allows the team to discuss a multitude of things without being limited. A key feature of this type of retrospective is that it focusses on finding out areas of "instability" which will yield the best outcomes for a team looking to improve. For example, if a team was to use the 3 Little Pigs retrospective, there answers would look something like this:
- The House of Straw: Our customers are waiting a long time for product requests
- The House of Sticks: Hopefully the internet in the office is fixed now
- The House of Bricks: Website is ranking on the 1st page of Google
The KALM retrospective is constructed of four key questions:
- Keep: What things have value and add to the team's process?
- Add: What can help the team accomplish their goals and get to where they need to be?
- Less: What things that are being done that hold value, but could be done less?
- More: What are things that the team is already doing, but could be doing more of?
After answering, the team will discuss their answers and create solutions for the next sprint that will improve performance. For example, a team that conducts aKALM retrospective will look like this:
- Keep: Engaging with customers to get feedback
- Add: Another developer to address additional workload
- Less: Arguing
- More: 1 on1 sessions during the Sprint
The SWOT analysis retrospective is a four-question activity that your team takes part in post-Sprint. The four questions to be asked are:
- Strengths: What attitudes and behaviors worked well in the Sprint?
- Weaknesses: What attitudes and behaviors did not work well in the Sprint?
- Opportunities: Where do you think the team could improve upon for the next Sprint?
- Threats: What are the risks when considering the next Sprint?
Once each team member has an individual answer to each of these questions, they will discuss them and come to an agreed upon plan to improve for the next Sprint. For example, a team doing a SWOT analysis retrospective will look like this:
- Strengths: We completed all tasks in our Sprint Backlog
- Weaknesses: We had way too many meetings
- Opportunities: We could be more realistic with our expectations and estimates
- Threats: There might not be enough team members to complete the workload
This might make some changes for the next Sprint based on information learned in the SWOT analysis retrospective. For example, they might decide to cut down the number of daily standups they have to save time, and look to expand the team so that they can take on more work if they choose to work on more tasks from the Product Backlog.
The WRAP Retrospective is a four-question activity for teams to take part in at the end of a Sprint. The four questions are:
- Wishes: What do you wish you had in the last Sprint?
- Risks: What are the critical dangers to consider for the next Sprint?
- Appreciation: Recognize someone on the team who helped you this Sprint
- Puzzles: What happened during the Sprint that you still don't have an answer for?
After answering, the team will discuss their points and come to a consensus about where they can improve. For example, a team conducting a WRAP retrospective will look like this:
- Wishes: I wish we had more detailed stories going into the Sprint
- Risks: We should refine our Sprint Backlog more, otherwise the tasks might take too long/be too complex to solve in one Sprint
- Appreciation: I appreciate Alan for all his late nights this week!
- Puzzles: I'm still confused how we created so many Bugs, we should look into it
As a direct result of the WRAP retrospective, the team now knows how they should improve going forward. They should engage in Sprint Backlog refinement sessions to create more detailed tasks for them to work on, as well as take extra code reviews whilst working to decrease the amount of Bugs they create
The FLAP retrospective is an activity comprised of four-questions that'll be asked to the team:
- Future considerations: What would you like the team to achieve in the next Sprint?
- Lessons learned: What went wrong in the last Sprint, and how can you make sure it doesn't happen again?
- Accomplishments: What went well during the Sprint?
- Problems: What issues need to be addressed to improve your work?
After the questions have been thought about and answered by team members, they will discuss and create a plan going forward based on what they feel are the most important points that will improve the team. For example, a team working with a FLAP retrospective might look like this:
- Future considerations: I think the team can focus more on punctuality with tasks
- Lessons learned: The team wasted too much time in meetings, let's cut the daily standups
- Accomplishments: The team worked super well together
- Problems: We need to have more structure in our workflow
By having used the FLAP retrospective, this team now knows what they can do to improve as a team. They should cut out daily standups, and use the time to work instead. This will help them become more punctual and more consistent with their deliverables.
Establishing a sprint retrospective helps your business improve communication and collaboration. By understanding how your team works and addressing any issues that may have arisen, you can continue to improve your business processes.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the duration of a sprint retrospective?
A sprint retrospective typically lasts one hour.
How do I go about conducting a sprint retrospective?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this issue, as the optimal technique to conduct a sprint retrospective may differ depending on the needs and preferences of your team. However, some recommendations are setting an agenda, asking team members to participate, and using a feedback tool, such as a dot voting exercise.
What should I do if my team refuses to attend the sprint retrospective?
Try to figure out why your team doesn't want to participate in the sprint retrospective. It's likely that they don't see the benefit of retrospectives or that they don't feel that they’re being heard in these sessions. Find methods to make the retrospective more valuable to the team, or offer them a voice in the meeting.