3 Ways to an Effective Agile Retrospective

An important staple of every agile sprint is sprint retrospective, the opportunity afforded on the last day of the sprint for everyone to vent, and more constructively, look at opportunities and ways to improve on the processes of the project. More so, it is to look back and reflect on what has been done well, what has not been done well, and setting the pace for the next sprint.

There are a couple of ways in which you can make the most of sprint reotrspectives, to gain the most out of everyone's feedback, ensuring the meeting is focused.

The sprint retrospective is usually the last thing done in a sprint. Many teams will do it immediately after the sprint review. The entire team, including both the ScrumMaster and the product owner should participate. You can schedule a scrum retrospective for up to an hour, which is usually quite sufficient. However, occasionally a hot topic will arise or a team conflict will escalate and the retrospective could take significantly longer. (source: Mountain Goat Software)

In this article, we will go through three things you can do to make retrospectives more productive.

1. Affirm Positivity & Openness

A bit of flirting and positive vibes, make sure you assure everyone at the table that they can be open, with positivity assurances. It is time to identify things that worked and didn't work, without assigning blame, or turning it into a slinging match. This should be a safe place, where everyone from junior developers to designers to project managers can safely voice their opinions.

This is important, because hesitation to open up, and rather omit concerns will only further bottle up problems for later on. I like to do some ice-breakers to warm up the team, so they can open up. FunRetrospectives have some interesting ideas on how to energize the team.

FunRetrospectives also discuss 360 degrees appreciation, as another way of fostering positive feedback.

2.Setting the Context

I am a big fan of strict adherence to agendas. We should have an agenda set beforehand, and have the meeting-owner (chairperson) go through the agenda in a focused and methodical way. Don't let this turn out to be a loose-structured meeting.

I am a fan of the start-stop-continue methodology, which goes around the table asking each person to list things that the team should:

  • start doing;
  • stop doing;
  • continue doing;

This simply allows people to add positive points, as well as negative points, and constructive points to increase productivity. Recording all the points, you then set who owns the issue, and when it should be delivered by. This is the action & delegation task, that gets coupled once consensus on each thing that was raised is done.

3. Record Issues throughout the sprint

Following on from the previous point, I would suggest everyone records throughout the sprint the start-stop-continue points, rather than think of it just before the retrospective. This way, we get a precise accumulated recording of people's pain points throughout the sprint, for review.

3. Evaluate Sprint Complexity Points

The meat of the retrospective is to go through the sprint, look at the tickets, and evaluate how accurate you are in setting the complexity points, versus completion. Relating to what went good or bad in the previous exercises, you use this opportunity to determine whether you have over-determined or under-determined the complexity of tickets.

You also use take the chance to hone in on what your team velocity is, in retrospect, setting the stage for the forwardspective sprint meeting the following Monday.