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Sprint Retrospective - The Process, Its Importance and Methodologies

by Vanji Sekaran

June 17, 2018
Category Agile and Scrum

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”.

In Scrum, the Retrospective takes place after Sprint Review, lasting up to a maximum of three hours for a four-week Sprint. The 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


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.


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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