Agile Retrospective: The Ultimate guide for Retrospective

In this post you will learn about what is retrospective, why do we do retrospect and what are the benefits of the retrospective.

 Contents:

  1. What is sprint retrospective
  2. Why do we need sprint retrospective
  3. Who should participate in a retrospective?
  4. Agile retrospective in a nutshell
  5. What are the techniques that can be used?
  6. Tips to run an effective retrospective

First thing first.

What is a Sprint Retrospective?

Agile is all about improvement and adaptation. But how do we know what to improve and what is lacking? This is where agile uses retrospective meetings. It’s a ceremony which needs extreme planning.

Retrospectives are very important part of the agile projects. What they do is process improvement.

Why Do We Retrospect?

There is no specific research that provides the data. But most of the managers discovered/noticed when they do retrospectives. There is a huge change in,

  • Team productivity improves
  • Team member capability improves
  • Product quality improves
  • Team capacity improves
  • Collaboration skills gets better

Who should participate in a retrospective?

Typically the participants should be.

  • The team
  • The facilitator/ Scrum Master
  • And ideally product owner/business subject matter expert would also be at the retrospective. But this is not always the case.

Agile Retrospective In a Nutshell

In a nutshell, agile retrospective gives the team an opportunity at the end of the sprint to take a look back at the sprint just ended and determine

  • what went well
  • what problems they may have had
  • How the is team improved in those areas?

But before we start the retrospective meeting, the first thing that needs to happen is to recollection.

It’s hard to remember all the details of what happened in the last couple of weeks.

Here are some more valuable questions to ask and get the conversation going.

  • What helps you to be successful as a team?
  • How did you do the sprint?
  • Where and when I went wrong in this sprint
  • What did you expect, from who?
  • Which tools or techniques worked well and which or not.
  • What is your biggest blocker Impediment
  • Which things went smoothly and which didn’t?

Pick the right ones for your team/sprint to get the better insights on urgent needs and improvements.

There is also a 5 why’s  way:

For example, you can get the most value out of a question by asking 5 why’s. Below on that.

  • Why did you do this way?
  • Why did this work for you?
  • Why do consider something to be important?
  • Why do you feel this way?
  • Why did you decide to work together on this?

This is a great follow-up question strategy, it helps you and your team to better understand the issue that you are solving.

What techniques can you use?

Technique 1:

A lot of scrum masters use methods from a book called Agile retrospectives from Diana Larsen And Ester Derby.

They created a flexible, scalable framework for the agile retrospective for designing a retrospective.

In this book, the author highlights 5 key areas or 5 steps that you walk through.

  • Setting the stage
  • Gathering data
  • Generate Insights
  • Decide what to do
  • Closing
  1. Setting the stage:

    Setting the stage – implies in the name itself, setting up the stage :).
    It gives the coach or the facilitator an opportunity to present what technique is going to be used.
     
    It also gives an opportunity to get the team, to get comfortable and create a safe environment to have a retrospective.
     
    A good example would be asking each individual to give two words on how they are feeling about the past sprint.
  2. Gathering the data:

    At this stage we look at, how do we generate ideas about what happened.
     
    This is like a brainstorming time. The more ideas the better.
     
    One example or one activity that they call in the book is,
     
    Let’s look at what happened in the last sprint and write it down on post-its.
     
    It does not matter what it is, the good thing, the bad thing or any ugly thing. It just gives a lot of data points to start with.
     
    Don’t look for quality data at this phase yet. Just need a lot of data points to talk through.
  3. Generate Insights:

    Now that we have plenty of data from the previous phase, we can analyze the data and get some answers for that data.
     
    At this stage, you can do plenty of analysis like root cause analysis and etc.
  4. Decide what to do:

    This is where, As a team we decide to come up with what they want to do and what are the action items to improve the process.

Technique 2

One other technique I have seen Scrum masters using is silent writing. Give the team post it’s and let them write on things they thought went well in the sprint and things the team like to change.

Tips to run an effective retrospective

  • Select a person to take notes. The reason is to make sure someone is always taking notes.
  • Follow up on the notes that have taken in past or the current retrospective.
  • Dedicate time block for a retrospective. Don’t block this time in between meetings. Agile is all about growing as a team, sprint retrospectives give the opportunity to get a dedicated time to reflect and grow as a team.
  • Make sure everyone understands about this meeting and contributes to this meeting.

Before I go. Let me know, what you think of this post and techniques discussed in this post.

Do you know any other technique that you use at your workplace?

2 Comments

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  1. What a great sharing! Just the other day at work I had an extremely long day at work with problem after problem. The next morning in essense I mentally did a debrief of what happened the day before and tried to formulate a game plan. Instead of jumping into analyzing what went wrong like I typically do, I took a step back and looked at things in retrospect. This is something I believe should happen after every major milestone (i.e. sprint). I was happy to have gotten affirmation that something like this was coined with a term!

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