A retrospective is an Agile tradition that allows teams to look back on the previous sprint and gauge what went well and what did not go well. The main goal of a retrospective is to come up with actionable items to improve on in the next sprint. A good retrospective promotes continuous improvement while helping teams address challenges and adapt to changing requirements.

7 Elements of a Good Retrospective

There are seven elements that go into a good retrospective. Continue reading to learn a little more about each of these elements and how they can influence your retrospectives.

1. Teamwide Participation

A successful retrospective is one where every single person in attendance participates. While some team members may have more to say than others, you want feedback from everyone. If you aren’t getting 100% participation, experiment with different retrospective formats.

2. Focused on Improvement

While there will be reflection on things that did not go well during a retrospective, you always want to circle back to the primary goal of creating actionable items focused on improvement. Identify what went wrong during the sprint and then brainstorm ways to make it better.

3. Honest and Open Communication

You want to create an atmosphere where all team members are comfortable giving their honest feedback about the previous sprint. Team members should feel encouraged to have an open conversation without fear of judgment from anyone else on the team or elsewhere.

3. Action-oriented

A good retrospective is action-oriented. Every retrospective should result in the creation of specific actionable steps that your team can follow to improve how they work.

4. Time-boxed

Timeboxing is a time management strategy that allocates a fixed amount of time for an activity or discussion. You should conduct your retrospectives within a specific timeframe. You can also break down discussions that occur during the retrospective into their own timeboxes.

5. Facilitated

You should assign someone to the moderator or facilitator role for every retrospective. This person handles keeping discussions moving and encouraging engagement. Try mixing up who is in charge of moderating or facilitating the retrospective for better engagement.

6. Regular

A retrospective should occur after every sprint. Not just the ones that went poorly. Your team should be aware that retrospectives are mandatory for everyone involved in the sprint. Holding a retrospective after a successful sprint also allows for moments of positivity and growth.

7. Fun and Engaging

A good retrospective should be fun and engaging. Experiment with different venues, formats, and themes. Gamification is another way to keep things interesting. For more inspiration check out our related blog post describing fresh ideas to make your retrospectives more engaging.

Answers to Common Questions About Retrospectives

Even the best teams continue to question and refine the way they conduct retrospectives. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions teams have about retrospectives.

Who should I invite to the retrospective?

You should invite anyone involved in the previous sprint to the retrospective meeting. That includes the scrum master and any team members who managed or did actual work during the sprint. Different teams and different departments can have their own retrospectives.

Does it matter whether a retrospective is in-person or virtual?

Teams can have a productive retrospective, regardless of location. Having a “cameras on” rule for virtual or hybrid retrospective meetings is one way to encourage engagement. There are also some excellent digital tools available to simulate the whiteboard experience. Chances are there is a digital tool available to replicate nearly any in-person interaction.

What are some common digital tools used during retrospectives?

Common digital tools that people use during a retrospective include video conferencing tools and collaboration tools. Popular video conferencing tools include Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet. Popular collaboration tools include Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace. There are also specialized tools like Confluence by Atlassian with templates for retrospectives.

Evaluating and Improving Your Retrospectives

Now that you know the elements of a good retrospective, it’s time to take these principles and put them into action. The important thing to remember is that practice makes progress. Because retrospectives happen after every sprint there is a lot of opportunity to improve the process. And if you ever feel like things are getting stale, there are plenty of ways you can shake things up.

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