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Sprint Retrospective

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What is a Sprint Retrospective?

The Sprint Retrospective is the final formal event of a Sprint and effectively closes it. During this meeting, the Scrum Team reflects on how the past Sprint went. The idea is to learn from it and then implement improvements. Central to Scrum is the concept of inspection and adaptation.


The goal of the Sprint Retrospective is to devise ways to enhance quality and effectiveness and to plan for their implementation. This can be achieved in various ways, such as:

  1. Reflection – The team discusses what went well during the Sprint and what could be improved. This covers both work processes and the team’s collaboration.
  2. Identifying areas for improvement – The team identifies specific areas where improvements are possible, such as individuals, interactions, processes, tools and the team’s Definition of Done.
  3. Creating an action plan – The team formulates concrete action points (also directly described in Product Backlog items) to implement the adjustments and improvements in the next Sprints.
  4. Team development – The Retrospective also helps strengthen collaboration and trust within the team.

The aim is not only to discuss problems but primarily to actively seek ways for the team to work more effectively and efficiently in future Sprints.

Format of the Sprint Retrospective

The format of the meeting is not fixed. Scrum provides guidelines about the purpose and time limit of the Retrospective, but how the Scrum Team approaches it is up to them.

The approach of “what went well, what went less well, what can we improve” is popular but there are plenty of alternatives. Think of Liberating Structures like “1-2-4-All”, “Conversation Café” or “Triz”.

Scrum Teams sometimes also use games to stimulate discussions. The most important thing is that the format helps to generate open and honest feedback. Teams may also adapt their Retrospective based on what was learned in previous Sprints. If a certain approach proved ineffective, the Team could try something else.

So while there are common elements in many Retrospectives (such as reflection on the past and planning for improvements), the format itself is not fixed and can be adapted to your own needs and preferences.

Role of the Scrum Master

The Scrum Team decides how the Retrospective is organized. The Scrum Master may help by making suggestions or proposing new formats, but ultimately it’s up to the team.

The Scrum Master does have other important responsibilities in the Retro, especially focused on facilitating and supporting.

  1. Facilitating the Meeting – The Scrum Master ensures that the event takes place and runs smoothly. The Scrum Master also ensures that the meeting stays within the timebox and that everyone gets a chance to speak.
  2. Creating a safe environment – The Scrum Master ensures an open and honest atmosphere where team members feel comfortable sharing both successes and challenges.
  3. Encouraging constructive discussion – The Scrum Master helps facilitate the discussion so that the team focuses on finding ways to improve their work process.
  4. Supporting with action items – The Scrum Master assists the team in defining concrete action points for improvement and encourages the team to follow up on them in the next Sprints.
  5. Coaching and Guidance – The Scrum Master also provides guidance and coaching to the team on how to collaborate more effectively and apply Scrum even better.

In summary, the Scrum Master plays a crucial role in facilitating a productive Retrospective focused on continuous improvement and team development.

Pitfalls of a Retrospective

During the Sprint Retrospective, there are also various pitfalls that can diminish the effectiveness of the session. Here are some common ones:

  1. Not being open to feedback – If team members are not open to constructive criticism or feedback, this usually leads to missed opportunities for improvement.
  2. Focusing on blame – The Retrospective can turn negative if the team focuses on assigning blame rather than seeking solutions.
  3. Lack of action – Discussing what went wrong without formulating concrete action points renders the session useless. It is important that the team comes up with action plans.
  4. Dominance by a few individuals – If only a few team members dominate the discussion, important insights from others are lost.
  5. Repetition of the same topics – Repeatedly discussing the same issues without any change leads to frustration and a sense of futility.
  6. Too much detail – Focusing too much on minor details instead of larger themes and patterns makes it difficult to identify meaningful improvements.
  7. Time management – Not respecting the timebox leads to a rushed or incomplete retrospective.

It is important that the Scrum Master recognizes these pitfalls and then helps to create a positive environment in which all team members share their opinions and collaborate on improvements.

No outsiders in Retrospective

You actually never invite external persons to the Sprint Retrospective. The meeting is specifically intended for the Scrum Team – that is, the Developers, the Scrum Master and the Product Owner. Here are some reasons why:

  1. Open and confidential atmosphere – The Retrospective is meant to be a safe environment where team members can openly share their thoughts, challenges and concerns. The presence of outsiders hinders this openness.
  2. Team focus – The focus is on improving the teamwork and processes within the Scrum Team. The opinions and insights of the team itself are most relevant here.
  3. Avoiding external influence – The presence of outsiders can unintentionally bring pressure or influence and affects the objectivity of the Retrospective.

However, in some cases, it may be useful to invite an external party for specific insights or expertise, but this should be a conscious choice and with the consent of the entire Scrum Team.

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