How to Run an Effective Sprint Retrospective (With Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated June 16, 2022 | Published January 3, 2022

Updated June 16, 2022

Published January 3, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

After the completion of a project, evaluating its success is vital for future improvement. One highly effective way of achieving this is by hosting retrospective meetings for the team. Understanding what sprint retrospective meetings or retrospective meetings are and how to host one is key to learning from prior projects to improve future ones. In this article, we define what a sprint retrospective is, explain their importance, describe how to run one, and offer helpful tips.

What is a sprint retrospective?

A sprint retrospective is a meeting in which leaders and employees take a reflective view of their projects when employing the Scrum methodology. The Scrum methodology relies on a strategy of completing projects as quickly as possible, with the agility and speed to make changes and improvements consistently. Each period of rapid development and improvement is a sprint. A sprint is a period of focused effort in which teams work toward set accomplishments.

In this team and strategy structure, the Scrum master is vital in coordinating team members and coaching them through consistent improvement. They do this by using the learnings gained in retrospective meetings. In these meetings, the Scrum team evaluates the success of their last sprint and explores conditions, approaches, or systems that may improve the next sprint's results. Those who may attend these Scrum retrospectives include:

  • Stakeholders: Stakeholders are those who hold an interest in an organization and provide the Scrum team with feedback. Individuals who can be stakeholders may include suppliers who work closely with the team or major investors in the business.

  • Development team: These are the developers of the Scrum team who deliver the final project at the end of the sprint. The members of the Scrum team combine their expertise and work together to meet the project's deadline.

  • Product owner: The project's product owner is responsible for creating the vision for the project's final product. Product owners also strategize for marketing the product once it's complete.

  • Scrum master: The Scrum master is an expert on managing sprints, and makes sure that the Scrum team is all collaborating, communicating, and on schedule. Scrum masters coach the team in the Scrum methodology and host the retrospective meeting.

Importance of a retrospective meetings

The purpose of these meetings is to gain knowledge of areas that require improvement and where the team exceeded expectations. These meetings offer many opportunities for Scrum teams to grow. Hosting retrospective meetings results in several benefits for Scrum masters, including:

  • Improving communication: Sprint meetings foster closer relationships between developers and Scrum masters by offering opportunities to share their thoughts, concerns, or questions. A retrospective sprint meeting can identify communication barriers and how to improve them.

  • Refining techniques: This process allows teams to use data from prior projects to build more effective strategies. Scrum teams may share results they've gained in their research or lessons they've learnt to help the team establish further objectives.

  • Promoting collaboration: When colleagues are able to share their thoughts, they're usually better able to collaborate in the future. Scrum masters can promote the company's objectives and strategies and include the team in this process.

  • Anticipating challenges: The meeting provides an opportunity to identify challenges the team faced during the last sprint, such as availability of resources or degree of productivity. This then leads to strategizing approaches to fix those areas in the next sprint.

How to run a retrospective meeting

Here are five simple steps for running a retrospective meeting:

1. Schedule a meeting

The first step in running a Scrum retrospective is choosing a time and place for the team to meet. The best time to schedule a meeting is immediately following the sprint. Alternatively, you can also provide the team a week or two to allow them to reflect on their performance. How long your retrospective takes depends on the level of experience your developers have and the extensiveness of the sprint. For instance, a retrospective meeting can take longer if the prior sprint involved many diverse elements or if there were any new personnel on the team.

Here are some details you can include in a meeting invitation:

  • Date

  • Time

  • Location

  • Estimated duration

  • Proposed itinerary

Related: Scrum Board vs. Kanban Board: What Are the Pros and Cons?

2. Present the data

At the beginning of the meeting, you can give a presentation about the last sprint's success. To begin, offer an introduction to the purpose of the meeting and explain retrospective meetings for sprints. Here are some effective ways to start the discussion:

  • Discuss the performance of the development team: Start by recognizing the contributions of individuals within the Scrum team. Part of this conversation can focus on productivity rates during the whole sprint.

  • Remind the team of the sprint's goals: You may establish a connection between the product owner's expectations of the last sprint and the developer's performance. Keeping your goals clear and quantifiable is key to explaining if the team reached them.

  • Indicate the sprint's success: At this stage, you can indicate if the sprint was successful. If it was successful, it's appropriate to offer praise to the team, but if not, identifying the discrepancies between performance and goals can guide the team's future efforts.

Related: What Is a Project Retrospective?

3. Initiate a discussion

The next step in running a retrospective meeting is to initiate an inclusive discussion. As everybody on the team likely has their own perspective, it's vital to offer an opportunity for everyone to present their opinions on the project, and the prior sprint. Here are a few helpful questions you can ask to facilitate a discussion:

  • What problems did we encounter?

  • Did we solve our problems? If so, how?

  • In which ways did we succeed?

  • How did we accomplish our goals?

  • Which team members helped us achieve our goals the most?

Related: Top 12 Project Manager Interview Questions and Answers

4. Design an action plan

Once you've established the strengths of your Scrum, you and your team can devise plan to succeed in your next sprint. In this stage, it's vital to encourage team members to suggest ways in which to improve. Here are a few helpful questions you can ask to strategize an action plan:

  • What additional support do you require from the Scrum master to complete your tasks?

  • What strong points of this past sprint can we implement in future sprints?

  • What factors threaten the success of our sprint, and how can we avoid them?

  • How can we improve our communication processes?

  • What new technology or systems can make our operations more efficient?

5. Allow time for questions

At the conclusion of the retrospective meeting, ask the team members if they have any questions, thoughts, or concerns remaining. It's also wise to summarize the central points the team discussed and consider the next steps for future projects. Ensure that you clarify any unexplained topics before officially ending the meeting.

Tips for running a retrospective meeting

Running an effective retrospective for your sprint is easy if you understand a few key principles. For Scrum masters and developers alike, knowing how to make the most of retrospective meetings for sprints means taking actionable steps toward improvement. Here are a few helpful tips for running retrospective meetings:

Use visual aids

Visual aids are useful for displaying the data used in prior sprints. Using graphic representations of the information can have a more profound impact on your team by allowing them to visualize goals, progress, and achievement. When you have a larger audience, visual aids also allow Scrum masters to present information evenly to everybody in the room. Here are a few examples of graphics or visual aids you can use in a retrospective presentation:

  • Bar graphs

  • Line graphs

  • Comparison photos

  • Testimonial quotes from clients

  • Videos

Related: Understanding Project Management Methodology (With Examples)

Invite more than one speaker

Involving more than one speaker to your meeting is effective in maintaining the engagement of the team. As a key stakeholder or Scrum master, it's a worthwhile consideration to let a development team member lead discussions on any relevant topics to their experience of the previous sprint. These may be obstacles, research, or suggestions. Hearing a variety of experiences and perspectives adds value to the meeting and breaks potential monotony. You can ask a developer pre-emptively to prepare their presentation and contribute.

Create a shareable document

Once the meeting is complete, it's helpful to summarize the key points into a document to share with the Scrum team and related stakeholders. In his document, include central points of discussion from the meeting and include a link or attach the presentation document. Here, you can also write interpretation from the meeting's discussions. Supplying team members with documents after the meeting can reinforce the retrospective session and give them items to reference during their next sprint.

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