Sprint Retrospectives in Scrum Stages and Techniques

Sprint Retrospectives in Scrum

Retrospective is one of the important events in the Scrum Framework of Agile software development. Sprint Retrospective is a chance for the Scrum Team to inspect itself and make a plan for improvements to be enacted during the next Sprint. The Sprint Retrospective happens after the Sprint Review meeting and prior to the next Sprint Planning meeting. It is to identify potential pitfalls, mistakes made in the past sprints, and seek out new ways to avoid those pitfalls. It is attended by the product owner, scrum master, development team members. (stakeholders are optional).

In this article you will understand,

  • Sprint Retrospective Stages and Techniques
  • How to make retrospective interesting?
  • How to run retrospective in distributed team setup?

Stages in Retrospective

Sprint Retrospectives generally follow 5 stages although most of the retrospectives are sophisticated that the below,

Setting the Stage –

  • This stage involves setting the goal for the sprint retrospectives.
  • Provide the team members some time to get settled and get into the right mood
  • It provides everyone with a chance to context switch from day to day activities
  • An icebreaker or a warmup game would provide the right setting.

Gathering the data –

  • This involves getting the shared understanding of events that shaped the past sprints.
  • It provides everyone with same level of information
  • This stage provides alignment to the team on what is most important
  • The following data can be more useful while understanding past events,
    • Sprint burndown chart
    • Velocity
    • Cycle Time
    • WIP
    • of defects

Generate Insights –

  • In this stage you gather insights from the data you gathered
  • Insights helps to expand your horizons by helping you see the big picture.
  • When you identify the problems based on past sprints, you would
    • Jot down the action items as hypotheses and experiments
    • Add the action items into the next Sprint Backlog
    • Talk about the action items during the Daily Scrum meeting
    • Hang the action items on information radiator

Decide what to do –

  • You’ve now analysed the issues and now it’s time to make it actionable.
  • The generated insights from the previous stage must be converted to actionable insights.
  • Use SMART template to implement the action items.

Closing –

  • Closing the retrospective is also important step in the retrospective
  • It gives an opportunity to reflect on the retrospective.
    • What worked well?
    • What didn’t work well?
  • It gives you the opportunity to document the results.
    • What should be written down or captured?
    • Who should it be shared with?

How to Make Sprint Retrospectives Interesting?

Retrospectives sometimes get boring if conducted periodically over longer period of time with the same setup. If the product development spans across multiple years, then the shelf life of the retrospectives would become shorter and uninteresting. But how to make sprint retrospectives in scrum interesting every time and keep the energy level up. Here are some interesting games that you can play,

  • How are you feeling today?
    • One word – you can ask the team to understand how they feel and understand their emotions
  • Constellations
    • Based on how things went well in the past sprint, team members form circle initially at equal distance and then depending on their mood they will move forward or backward forming constellations
  • Timeline
    • Have the team draw the sprint timeline and write down all the events that occurred in Day 1 till Day 14 of 2 weeks sprint.
  • Mad / Sad / Glad
    • This helps you to understand how your team felt about the sprint. Have your team use sticky notes and paste the items on the respective areas of Mad / Sad or Glad
  • 5 Whys
    • This is a famous technique (from TPS) on how to understand the root cause of the problem. Identify the issue at hand and ask “why?” five times to get to the root cause of the issue.
  • Start / Stop and Continue
    • Many teams start their retrospective with Start Stop Continue. Items that the team wanted to continue as it worked well in the past, items that needs to be stopped as it did not yield desired results and finally items that the team would like to start doing because of its potential benefits.

How to Run Sprint Retrospective in Distributed Team Setup?

It is always easy to do the retrospective with the collocated team but in real world with product being developed across multi geographies, the teams are distributed across the world. The retrospectives involve now both collocated and distributed teams. Tools and technology bridge the gap between physical and virtual teams. Use the relevant technologies from Face to Face or Conference call to conduct retrospectives. Scrum master should be creative and ensure that all team members are participating using innovative games.


Retrospectives provide great insight into the process and the product being developed so it has to be done with great passion to get desired results.

How are you doing sprint retrospectives in your team? Is your team collocated or distributed? What challenges do you face? Share your insights in the comments.

Author’s Bio

Ramkumar Arumugam is an experienced Program Manager with 15+ years of success in leading all phases of diverse technology IT Projects in retail, e-commerce, insurance and pharma market research industries. He is currently working as Senior Program Manager in Cognizant and holds multiple certifications including PMP, PMI-ACP, CSM, CSPO, CSP and ICP-ACC.He is a regular contributor to projectcubicle.com.

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See Also

Sprint Retrospective Meeting

Further Reading




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