Sprint Retrospectives are crucial for team members. Why are they important? Here are some of the reasons why this Scrum meeting is essential and how to be successful with it!
As we all know, Retrospectives are meetings that are developed at the end of each Sprint and whose purpose is to analyze, reflect, and exchange opinions about how teams work, as well as evaluate the results obtained so far.
In short, the Retrospective is a Scrum meeting that allows us to look back and determine what things are working well and what things need to be adjusted to make the next Sprint more productive.
Sprint Retrospectives are crucial for team members, as they are critical to keep the spirit alive and improve the work culture. So why are they important? These are some of the reasons why this Scrum meeting is necessary:
- Looks for ways to continuously improve the way the team works throughout the development process and allow the changes to be applied immediately. Just like the Agile Manifesto says in its 12th principle, “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly”.
- Encourages participation and trust among team members.
- Promotes fluid and open communication, which is key when working with Agile methodologies. (Read as well: Communication in Agile software development… Does it matter?).
- It allows obstacles to be revealed and visualizes the progress towards the fulfillment of the objectives.
- Proposes solutions and actions to be taken to effectively solve problems that require more attention.
- It is a space to discover new opportunities, to adapt to changes, and to give feedback on the work of others.
Content related: 5 keys you can’t skip on your agile process
In the Scrum meetings, we can see that the Sprint Retrospective is a key tool that allows the team to evolve and improve throughout the entire process of development.
To make this a reality, it is essential that everyone – from the Product Owner to testers – realizes that this is the perfect scenario where all voices can be heard. Additionally, the Retrospectives help everyone to know how the project is progressing.
And… How do we succeed in this Scrum meeting?
Even though many times teams will ask why they need to do a Sprint Retrospective, contending things such as the team is so good that it will rarely need to improve anything, the meetings are boring, the team is too busy, the Retrospectives take too long, or simply because they do not like it, it is important to make it clear that these are necessary to deliver better results.
Regarding this, the independent Consultant in Agile, Ben Linders, says in his article What’s an Agile Retrospective and Why Would You Do It?, “(…) if you want to solve the problems that you are having, and deliver more value to your customers, you have to change the way you do your work”.
(You might find this interesting: Say no more “Buts” and stop asking yourself why Scrum is not working).
Then, how we can use this Scrum meeting effectively to make it a success? Be aware that Agile promotes the Retrospectives to help teams, and consider the following advice:
- Have a good facilitator: It is necessary to have a facilitator who will be in charge of guiding the meeting. This person – usually the Scrum Master – should do the following:
- Create an environment where people feel safe, comfortable, and listened to, always encouraging everyone to have time to talk freely about achievements as well as frustrations and impediments in order to achieve goals. Encourage the participation of all team members. While it is desirable that everyone participate, the facilitator should not force anyone who does not want to do so.
- Ensure that everyone understands the issues addressed.
- Stay neutral in discussions; otherwise, it may affect some members of the team and prevent them from speaking freely.
- Allocate sufficient time for the meeting: Optimizing and knowing how to use time is key to the success of a Retrospective. Although the rule states that, at a minimum, the team should meet 45 minutes per week worked, we consider that between 60-90 minutes is the time needed for the team to discuss ideas, expose problems, and propose solutions. Note also that, for example, spending 10 minutes to talk about what happened during Sprint does not produce any benefit, due to the short time of analysis and possible solutions.
- Do not overreach: Proposing too many items to improve in the next iteration could generate frustration due to little progress on that list.
- Making improvements visible: In the Scrum meeting, it is important to review the notes of previous Retrospectives so that the team feels that it is part of the improvements in the development of the project.
- Focus on the project: The Retrospective meeting is not a space to expose the performance problems of someone on the team but to improve as a group. Focus your attention on sharing knowledge and learning, and set aside guilt and personal problems.
- Make small changes, do not just stick to good ideas: At the end of the meeting, the team defines the changes that must be made while planning the actions to follow. Ideally, think of realistic and achievable actions. Making small changes is much better than “filling” a Retrospective with many good ideas that, in the end, will not be realized. If this situation is reached, the team will be discouraged to see that nothing is happening.
Now, to finish, we want to show you some formats, ideas, and activities for the development of the Retrospective. Although there is no ideal or unique model, the facilitator has the power to implement the methodology he considers to be most appropriate.
- “IL-IW-IW” (I Liked – I Wish – I Wonder): Each team member during the meeting expresses his/her thoughts:
1 – What did you like during the Sprint, what things made you feel comfortable, and what achievements did you accomplish?
2 – What would you like to change?
3 – Based on the impediments expressed in “I Wish”, propose ideas for improvement.
- “What went well – What should have been done better – Action items”: Team members debate about what was done correctly, what can be improved, and propose improvement actions.
- “One Word”: It expresses in a word what they felt during the Sprint. The facilitator will use these words as triggers throughout the Retrospective meeting.
- “Draw me a picture”: Each person expresses in a drawing what he felt during the Sprint. This technique is recommended when verbal communication fails.
To Sum Up
As we can see, the Retrospective is the heart of the project. This is the moment in which all the members of the team speak and freely express their ideas, criticisms, and improvements.
This is why we emphasize the skills that the facilitator must have, who will have to be able to change the activities to be done based on the experience in order to make the most of each Scrum meeting. A person without skills or experience can decrease team morale and make it less productive, affecting the quality of the final result.
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