In the world of software development, efficiency is seen as a top priority. When it comes to the Scrum development process, developers take this to a whole new level. As Scrum teams grow and start to better understand the process, different parts of the process can be optimized to get the most out of the Scrum and Agile framework. Today, we are going to focus on a specific part of this process known as the sprint retrospective.

For those who don’t already know, Scrum development is divided into short 1-2 week bursts known as sprints. During these sprints, developers choose items from the product backlog and work to complete them in this short process. Each day, the team comes together and has a stand-up meeting where they talk about objectives, but these meets are often no less than 15 minutes.

The real review comes with the sprint retrospective, which takes place at the end of each sprint to see what can be learned and improved upon in future developments. Since this is a chance for the entire team to grow together and increase efficiency, it is a big deal and you want to make sure you are getting the most out of it. So, let’s talk about exactly how to do that.

sprint retrospective

The purpose of the sprint retrospective

First, let’s talk about the purpose of the sprint retrospective. As we stated earlier, this is a time where the Scrum team can come together a learn from past mistakes and successes to enhance future developments. However, this can also be a time to start preparing for the Scrum planning meeting where the team puts together what they want to handle from the product backlog in the next sprint.

By having the Scrum planning meeting in the back of your mind during the sprint retrospective, you are helping your team to get in the mindset of continuous improvement. This is a core value of Scrum development, but without someone there to guide the discussion, things can become stagnant. Each of these best practices we are about to review are geared towards breaking up the repetitive nature of Scrum and setting your team up for success.

Preparing for the retrospective

When you are getting ready for the sprint retrospective, instead of waiting for the meeting to start laying out ideas, you should prepare your team by notifying them beforehand. Give them a few questions to mull over such as “What emotion would you tie to this latest sprint?” or “What’s one thing you would change about the sprint we just finished?”

These questions will get your team in the right mindset for the retrospective, meaning that you can jump right into it when you host the meeting. Be sure to keep the question simple and try to change them up with each meeting, since boredom and repetition are two of the biggest threats to a successful Agile development process.

Highlight results and talk improvements

Once you begin the actual sprint retrospective, it will be important to review the faults or mistakes that were made in the last sprint. However, this should not take up much time. Instead, you want to keep a positive outlook and focus on results of the sprint. Often, your team understand the mistakes they made and how to make sure they don’t happen again, so there is no need to spend a significant amount of time on the negatives.

Stay positive by highlighting the results that were achieved and by talking about improvements to the process. This will keep your team in the right headspace and lead to more successful sprints. Although the Scrum methodology relies on honest feedback, there is a limit to what people can handle when it comes to constructive criticism, so remember to keep it light.

Change things up

One of the best ways to keep your team engaged with the process is through changing things up with each sprint retrospective. Thankfully, many teams have already tackled this problem, so there are plenty of online resources. If you need ideas, here are some resources for planning:

That being said, there are a few approaches to the sprint retrospective that we wanted to highlight here that we have seen success with. Again, these are basic ideas that you can take key parts from and apply to your own sprint, depending on your team.

Awards retrospective

The first Agile methodology for changing things up with your sprint retrospective is to treat the discussion like you are giving our awards. For instance, categories such as “Best Story,” “Most Frustrating Story”, and “Most technically complex story” might highlight stories from the sprint that wouldn’t usually have been brought up.

This is why these different retrospectives are used: to bring out parts from the sprint that might otherwise go unnoticed. Although it may seem silly at times, you should be able to have fun with it in order to create a better process for everyone involved.

Speedboat retrospective

Taking a different approach to the sprint retrospective, the Speedboat method focuses on going beyond the typical questions asked. Each of the different ideas or parts of this method try to break down any barriers that are holding the team back. They include:

Island/Vision: Set goals for the mid-to-long term on the project. Sometimes when you are running sprints, it can be hard to remember to think bigger than 1-2 weeks.

Wind/What helps the team: Discuss what the team could change or fix that would improve the next sprint and the overall software development project.

Anchor/Areas of improvement: What is currently holding the team back or impending future growth? How can that be remedied?

The Iceberg/Risks: Are there any future issues the team can foresee that can be planned for or avoided?

These are not the exact questions you will have to ask, but the ideas behind them should lead to better team discussions.

Review the retrospective

Now, you may be wondering how these different methods arise for getting the most out of the sprint retrospective. Interestingly enough, it comes from doing a review of the retrospective. After each sprint and its following retrospective, perform a quick review of the retrospective itself.

This can be a good time to ask your team how they felt about the meeting, what could be changed to optimize everyone’s time, and anything else that needs to be discussed. This is where you can really take your retrospective game to a whole new level, but this kind of review won’t happen until you make it happen. So, make it happen.

Rotate facilitator role

Finally, the last best practice for optimizing the sprint retrospective is to rotate the facilitator role with each retrospective. This is the best way to keep things fresh and involve the entire team. While typically the role of Scrum master is assigned to the person who leads these meetings, retrospectives are a time to change things up in order to learn from everyone.

Although Agile software development already has plenty of sound tips and tricks to getting the most out of a development, it is through collaboration and honest discussions that development teams truly grow. By getting everyone involved and making constant improvement a focus, you will not only be able to create a better overall process, but create exceptional products.