Sprint retrospective: a key Scrum project management process to improve as a team
7 frequently asked questions about sprint retrospectives in agile project management.
As a team, analyze the previous development cycle to collectively improve on the next ones.
1. What is the purpose of a Scrum Sprint Retrospective event?
According to Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland’s 2011 Scrum Guide, a sprint retrospective is an opportunity for Scrum teams to assess their work at the end of a cycle, and to draw up an improvement plan for the next one. The objective is for teams to prepare for the next sprint, while not under pressure, and introduce actions to avoid repeating any errors from the previous sprint. A sprint retro is basically a retrospective tailored to the scrum model.
The development team’s objective is to analyze the previous sprint’s strong and weak points and identify concrete actions to improve the upcoming development cycle.
2. Who takes part in an agile retrospective?
All development team members take part in the sprint retro, including the scrum master and product owner. In the scrum model, the scrum master acts as a coach, whereas the product owner acts as the project manager. The event is hosted by the Scrum Master, at least for the first few sprint retros. The retros can subsequently be hosted by another team member, under the general supervision of the Scrum Master, who is there just to make sure that the sprint retro runs smoothly and productively. The product owner also takes part in the event, as they have a key role within the Scrum team.
However, sprint stakeholders (e.g. managers) should not take part as some participants might feel uncomfortable and this would ultimately be counterproductive. For the continuous improvement objective to succeed, participants should feel safe to speak their mind freely. They must keep a critical outlook on their work and own up to their mistakes, or at least acknowledge improvements they need to make, without any fear of judgment or consequences.
3. How long does a sprint retro event last?
On average, for a three-week-long sprint for example, an efficient retrospective will take at least two hours. Obviously, the length of the sprint retro depends on the duration of the sprint itself. As a benchmark, plan 45 minutes of retro time for each sprint week, i.e. one hour and a half for a two-week-long sprint, three hours for a month-long sprint. Retro length is an important factor to take into account, as retros are a key element of continuous improvement processes.
Klaxoon’s sprint retro template can help you save time in terms of logistics and sharing information. You have everything available on the same digital whiteboard from which the team can work either simultaneously or asynchronously.
While the sprint retro should not be rushed, on the other hand, it should not be too long. Use the “timer” feature in the Klaxoon interface to keep an eye on the time and be truly efficient.
4. What is the difference between a sprint retrospective and a sprint review?
Sprint retros and sprint reviews are often confused. Both are agile Scrum model events. However, they are different events with different objectives.
- A sprint retrospective helps development teams to analyze and appraise their performance during the previous sprint and to identify areas for improvement for upcoming sprints, using an action plan.
- A sprint review, on the other hand, is a presentation by the Product Owner and Scrum Master of the work done during the previous sprint to project stakeholders. During a sprint review, the product increment is presented and participants can give feedback.
According to the Scrum methodology time line, Sprint retrospectives always take place after the sprint reviews and before the next Sprint preparation meeting.
5. What are the 4 stages in a sprint retrospective using the Klaxoon Template?
You have just completed your sprint. Now is the time to use the Sprint retro template! It is based on agile Scrum methods and is ideal for creating your own 4-stage retrospective within the same workspace:
- Icebreaker: As the name suggests, use the Icebreaker to make participants feel at home and to check the team’s mood after the sprint and allow them to speak their mind in a fun way. An ideal way to kick-off the session! Start a Live session, Board’s built-in video conferencing tool, so that team members can see each other and interact even from a distance. This creates a friendly atmosphere, a must for icebreaker workshops.
- Data collection: For the second part of your sprint retro, collect the team’s feedback on the completed sprint, i.e. what worked well, blocking points, what went wrong. Don’t hold back! Then as a team, brainstorm and discuss possible improvements. At the end of the workshop, “like” the most useful ideas for the third part of the retro, the action plan.
- Action plan: The team shifts into action, in other words, moves on to the action plan! Copy the ideas retained during the previous workshop into this section to convert them into actual actions. Then collectively assign each one to a team member. The box underneath the idea is where you specify who is in charge of the action.
- Wrap-up: Give your feedback on the sprint retro with a Live Vote question. Via the Live session (Board by Klaxoon’s built-in video conferencing tool), discuss and find solutions as a team to improve for the next retro. This is a retrospective within the retrospective! Put your sprint retro into perspective.
6. How to give your sprint retros a new edge?
Don’t bore your development team with the same old sprint retro template. Create your own sprint retros! And why not assign a new retro to each new sprint? Be creative and introduce new exercises to keep your team on the ball. You can use the ready-to-use methods library and pick the activities you want. For the icebreaker, if you want to boost your creativity, pick an icebreaker from the list of methods in the library and copy it into part one of your retro. You can also use different formats for the “data collection” section: select “collect feedback easily” from the template library, pick a method (e.g. SWOT) and copy it into part two of your retro.
Sprint retros are information gold mines that help teams strive toward continuous improvement and teamwork. They come in different shapes and sizes and can be stored on the same workspace for future reference to check on team progress.
7. How can visual management support agile retrospectives?
Klaxoon templates are based on tried and tested visual management methods. Below are two examples of ready-to-use templates for your sprint retro, with immediate visual results.
- For the Icebreaker: With Klaxoon’s Team mood forecast template, team members stay focused on one another and it is easy to spot a mood change in one of the members. A team’s performance primarily relies on the mindset of every single team member. Therefore, it is essential for all team members to know how their teammates are feeling after the completed sprint! The Team mood forecast template promotes communication and empathy within a team, in particular when working remotely. Members can take time to reflect on their emotions and express their mood, without having to explain. The team mood forecast promotes mutual support and is a reliable barometer that helps navigate as a team. Simply express your feelings on the Team mood forecast template using pictographs.
- For data collection: With the Speedboat template, the team uses the boat metaphor to identify areas for improvement. Each member positions the positive points according to the sun and tailwind, and lists hindrances and threats, pictured as anchors and reefs. Together you highlight priorities and suggest solutions regarding the completed development cycle. It’s fun and very visual.
The sprint retrospective template features many other methods. You can also create your own methods with the patterns available directly on the Klaxoon Board, which you can customize with the color palette and other tools on the whiteboard.
You have just completed your sprint. Then try the Sprint Retro Template, to identify strong points, areas for improvement, and actions that can improve team performance for the next sprint.