Sprint Retrospective - The Process, Its Importance and Methodologies

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Vanji Sekaran

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Jun 17, 2018

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20 mins

What is Sprint Retrospective?

Sprint Retrospective Meaning

The word “Retrospective” means to look back, that is to scope out the events that took place in a different time-window and analyse it. The person who is reflecting thus is most probably in a different frame of mind than when going through it, resulting in a different perspective. It is also known as “Iteration Retrospective” or in its abbreviated form as “Sprint Retro”.

The Scrum Retrospective takes place after Sprint Review, lasting up to a maximum of three hours for a four-week Sprint. The Scrum meeting requires the attendance of all the members of the Scrum Team and the outcomes generated out of this inspect-and-adapt meeting helps set the stage for the next Sprint. It thus helps in aligning feedback to the mainstream processes.

Retrospective helps in the identification of:

  1. Impediments
  2. Key Issues
  3. Areas of improvement

5 Steps For Conducting Sprint Retrospective Meeting

1. Set the Stage: This focuses on the “why” of the process, the goal that this process aims to achieve and making the audience open for a constructive discussion.

2. Gather Data: A review is carried out of the events that took place in the last sprint taking into account the views and opinions of all the individuals present. It can be carried out via writing, speaking or both to obtain as much information as possible.

3. Generate Insights: By taking a step back and seeing the big picture, the team analyses the status-quo, the reasons for it and tries to map it to better alternatives/possibilities.

4. Decide What To Do: The Team votes on the action items that it collectively chooses to implement in the next cycle. Each item is given individual assignment to ensure follow-through along with a way to measure its effectiveness.

5. Close the Retrospective: The results of the Retrospective are summarized and suggestions are sought on how to carry it out better the next time. And appreciation is provided to the team for their participation and overall contribution.

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A circle is drawn containing five segments titled “Start”, “Stop”, “Continue”, “More of” and “Less of”. The team comes forth with ideas in each of these segments until all members have had their say. Then similar ideas are clubbed together across all the segments which are then taken up for further discussion.

Similar concept drives the KALM (Keep, Add, More, Less) method.


Introduced by Luke Hohmann in the “Innovation Games” book, the Sailboat Technique has the following elements:

  • Island (Vision),
  • Wind (Engine in the Speedboat version, accelerators to the project),
  • Anchor (Parachute in the Speedboat version, decelerators to the project),
  • Rocks (Risks).

Similar concept drives the MOUNTAIN HIKING method wherein the mountain-top (goal), rain and thunder (risks), rockslide (blockers), helmets and ropes (enablers) are used as analogies.

MAD,SAD,GLAD / Facebook Reactions:

The team speaks or writes about the events of the last sprint and the emotion they elicited in them under each category. Related items are then grouped together. If the number of items generated is too many, Dot Voting can be used to prioritize them up for discussion.

4Ls (Liked, Learned, Lacked, Longed For)

This method can be used for Sprint as well as Project Retrospectives and other events too for which feedback is sought post-conclusion.

6 Thinking Hats / Parallel Thinking:

Based on the system designed by Edward de Bono in his book “Lateral Thinking for Management”, it consists of 6 colours, each representing a different thinking direction:

  1. WHITE (facts and figures/information),
  2. RED (emotions),
  3. BLACK (conservative thinking/negatives),
  4. BLUE (objective thinking/big picture),
  5. GREEN (creative thinking) and
  6. YELLOW (positive thinking).

Scrum Values

A method designed to evaluate a team’s adherence to and enhance its understanding of the Scrum Values: Focus, Commitment, Transparency, Respect and Courage.

Here the team members rate the entire Team against each value first followed by ordering the individual value themselves. And try to find if discrepancies exist, thereby suggesting issues, between the outputs of the two exercises.

How Do You Run Sprint Retrospective Meeting?

 There is no only way to run sprint retrospective but the content explained here is tested by many teams and many times. Hence let us take a look at how can you follow this for your team's success. 

It is named as Begin, End but Continue sprint retrospective. Here the team members are allowed to decide on what they want to begin, what to stop, and which one to continue with. The people feel empowered and thus they own their actions and run to complete their tasks. The simple steps followed is to 

• Get all to the sprint retrospective meeting room. 

• No questions as to why things went wrong but only address what went wrong and how to correct it 

• Let each individual make a note of their thoughts in a slip and one person will collect to read them all

• Then the team will discuss creating bucket and list items to Start, Stop and Continue 

• Later each will be asked to individually vote for Start, Stop and Continue about each item

• Based on the majority the items will be assigned and worked upon 

It looks simple right? It is indeed quite straightforward. Make use of the Agile retrospective meeting time constructive to think about what next and don’t brood about the past.

What is Discussed in Sprint Retrospective Events? 

Let us go into detail to know what all can be discussed in sprint retrospective meetings. We were told not to ask why things wrong but to focus on how to finish things. So let us see what is majorly discussed in this event. 

Three major questions to be asked and the rest will revolve around them 

1. What went right in the current sprint 

List all that was done per plan. Make a note of the items that were worked upon successfully. The difficulty of the items and who worked on it as well as how did they do it. This will give an idea of the strength of the team. 

2. What was not right? 

Check what went wrong and the particular event that could not be completed. Do not deep dive into who worked on it and why it was unsuccessful. Just collect the things that went wrong and list them. Start assigning them to people again based on their willingness to work on the items. 

3. How to improve? 

Ask everyone’s opinion to improve that area and take it forward. If needed get back to the client asking for some modifications which can be discussed by the product owner for the undoable tasks.


Designed to enhance empathy, each member thinks and communicates from that member’s vantage point, whose name has been picked. The others have to make the right guess based on the viewpoints expressed. At the end, the concerned member validates, rejects or makes changes to these viewpoints.

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Retrospective meetings are very critical in scrum methodology. There are different scrum retrospective methods discussed in this blog. Irrespective of the method you choose, it is important to understand that the team must know what went wrong and right. This is the key for them to identify the ways to correct past mistakes. Hence follow one of the scrum retrospective methods based on your project requirement and identify the right and the wrong to take things forward. Also, know the important sprint retrospective questions to identify the mistakes within each sprint. Few questions suggested will include 

  • What was done correctly during the sprint
  • What was wrong in the sprint? 
  • What are the learnings from the sprint? 
  • What should be changed during the next sprint?

These are few thought-provoking questions to make the team think and never phrase questions to pinpoint mistakes. Make sure the questions will allow the team to come out with a constructive solution during the next sprint.


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