Sprint retrospectives (also known as retros) are meetings held at the end of a particular project or sprint, with the goal of helping teams look back, reflect, and discover ways to change future behavior and outcomes. In your everyday life, you may spend some time reviewing your day before you fall asleep, thinking about the great things that happened (or maybe the not-so-great).
Weekly retrospectives are popular in agile circles in the workplace, as they promote the spirit of continuous improvement. It’s possible that many teams will only look at the future when a quick reflection of the past can help identify issues that limit productivity (and happiness). In addition, the combination of perspectives can help teams capture a full view of what’s going on.
In the rest of this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about retrospective meetings. We believe every team should hold retrospectives. Read more about sprint retro questions in this post.
P.S – we’ve build an online tool to make retros easy, even for non-technical teams. Feel free to check it out.
First, it’s important that everyone in the retrospective meeting is involved. This is a collaborative meeting, so it’s important to “set the stage” or get the team warmed up. I think of it like an athlete warming up before a game. Without warming up, the athlete won't perform as well.
Make sure to mention the purpose of the meeting at the beginning. It’s important to reiterate that this meeting exists to improve productivity and remove obstacles to success.
If you notice someone is silent, do your best to encourage them to participate. If one person is silent, more people will follow. Soon, there will only be one person talking, which is less than ideal.
Finally, make sure to give a sense of the time boundaries that the discussion encompasses. If you hold a weekly retrospective, make sure to reiterate that you are discussing the past week.
The next step is to start gathering some form of concrete data. If you use a task management system, reference the number of items tackled or cards completed. If you’re non-technical, reference the customer conversations you had, sales calls made, etc. The point is that there should not be ambiguity around the tasks that have been completed.
In some sense, you are trying to determine what items you are going to discuss in the rest of the meeting. If you are facilitating the conversation, make sure to ask questions like:
If you are using a whiteboard, highlight all the positive developments with a green marker or sticky note. For the things that didn’t go so well, use a red marker or sticky note. Make sure you create communication redundancy.
Keep in mind – it may be awkward for some people on your team to speak up, which is why it’s super important to thank people when they contribute. The more that people contribute, the more information you have to work with (and the better the meeting goes). In addition, if you are the facilitator, make sure to capture the insights of ALL the people in the meeting, not just the people that speak up first.
Now that you have generated a list of the highlights and challenges for the week, it’s time to brainstorm possible solutions. Once again, make sure to involve the perspectives of everyone on the team, especially the individuals who came up with the pain point in the first place.
You’ll need to dig a bit to identify the root cause – spend most of your time asking “why” to help uncover this. Try to involve several members of the team in this process; it will help to build consensus around the possible solutions to the problem.
When this is done, move onto the next step.
At this point, you should have a list of challenges and potential solutions. It’s now time to move to the next phase of the weekly retrospective – the action-planning phase.
In this step, you’ll need to develop clear and concise next steps. Your goal should be to eradicate the issue that was brought up in the retro, so it never pops up again.
You may experience differing opinions on how to solve the problem, so it’s important to acknowledge all points of view. With that being said, you can’t appease everyone, so commit to trying a solution and get buy-in from the team (as much as possible).
At this point, you should wrap up the meeting. If you have sticky notes on a whiteboard, take a photo with your smartphone and document it somewhere. You may want to reference it later – make sure to keep documentation.
If you want to learn more about retrospectives, we recommend taking a look at the following resources: