What is a retrospective?
As the name implies, a retrospective is an event that encourages us to look back at the events that happened. However, it is not as easy as it may seem at first glance. The Scrum retrospective is used in the Agile approach as an opportunity for the (Scrum) team to jointly glance at a completed sprint, constructively and openly evaluate and create a plan for improvement, all as a team, together. The retrospective should be the so-called "safe place" for people not to be afraid to share their feelings and observations, to come up with ideas but also criticism. It's a meeting where we have to breathe, breathe in and gain strength for the next sprint. Although the sprint retrospective is specially designed for the needs of agile development and thus agile teams, we can adapt it to almost any team.
WHO: Scrum team
WHEN: After sprint
HOW LONG: max 1h
GOAL: evaluate, understand, set a plan for improvement (Action items)
The Scrum team (i.e. Scum master or project manager who leads it + Product owner and the whole development team) should participate in the retrospective. Neither clients nor the company's C-level managers should go to the retrospective, precisely in order to create the mentioned atmosphere of trust, safety and a stress-free environment. The presence of senior managers could make the team uncomfortable and therefore the team would not be so open, especially to things that failed.
The scrum retrospective should be scheduled immediately after the sprint so that we have a fresh memory of everything that happened during the sprint. Our designers in GoodRequest used to end the sprint with a retrospective and start the second one straight away.
How long is the tricky question. In general, a retrospective for a 2-week sprint should not last more than an hour, but if our team has topics to talk about, we do not have to interrupt it and we can extend a meeting. It depends on the taste. Likewise, we should not keep people "violent" at this meeting if we do not have topics for discussion or everything went quite smoothly. Sometimes half an hour can be enough for us.
The retrospective should lead me to evaluate the team as a whole, it should lead to a common understanding and some improvement of functioning and processes. And all thanks to sharing feedback and setting up your Action Items. But beware! Retrospective is not just about work, tools or a specific sprint, it is also about people and building relationships. The goal of the retrospective is therefore not to drive our team into even better results, the goal is to build a coherent whole that will be understood and united.
How to conduct a retrospective?
- Identify your audience - to whom do we plan to share the results of the retrospective? Is this meeting intended only for our internal Scrum team or do we modify this meeting and the results will be translated into the wider functioning of the company? Answer these questions to make it easier for you to set up a plan.
- Identify metrics - you need to look at the project timeline including milestones and reports, and you also need to evaluate the project success criteria. Answer the question of how the project went and what inputs I can bring to the retrospective as a leader of the meeting. Work with real data.
- Create an agenda - decide how you want to lead different parts of the meeting. What form of retrospective will you choose and whether you will use online tools or you have the option to "close" everyone in one place.
- Schedule a meeting and invite the team - plan the meeting at least 3 days in advance 🙂
- Welcome - Spomeň si na najlepšiu prezentáciu alebo meeting aký si videl/-a a na ten najhorší. Ako to prebiehalo? Tie dobré sú väčšinou vtipné a ihneď pritiahnu pozornosť ľudí. Práve preto môžeš začať míting nejakým icebreakerom, ktorý prinúti ľudí sa usmiať a pozitívne sa naladiť.
- Vysvetli význam - nie je nič horšie, ako keď ľudia nerozumejú, prečo majú mať ďalší meeting. Vysvetli význam retrospektívy a aj to, čo má priniesť.
- Vytvor jednotné povedomie - vďaka rôznym formám retrospektívy vieš vytvoriť atmosféru jednotného pochopenia témy mítingu, vďaka čomu sa ti bude lepšie s tímom pracovať.
- Generovanie dát - toto je jadro retrospektívy, kde tím produkuje informácie o tom, čo sa počas šprintu podarilo a čo sa nepodarilo. Môže sa stať, že tím skĺzne do fázy "čo s tým ideme robiť", pričom treba tímu pripomenúť, že to budeme rozoberať neskôr, táto fáza je o generovaní dát.
- Diskusia - v tejto časti sa spolu s tímom rozprávaj o ich názoroch a postrehoch a vnímaj náladu ako aj obsah. Nesúď. Ba práve naopak, moderuj diskusiu a nabádaj ostatných aby sa zapájali. V tejto časti sa snažíme prísť na to, čo môžeme robiť preto, aby náš ďalší šprint išiel hladšie.
- Action items - počas diskusie si zapíš nápady a transformuj ich do jasných action items. Uisti sa, že každá jedna action item má osobu zodpovednú za jej splnenie, avšak pozor na ich počet. Ak je ich veľa a tím nevie splniť záväzok, vie to byť veľmi demotivujúci faktor. Pokojne stačí jedna, či dve s tým, že budú určite splnené.
- Uzatvorenie mítingu a hodnotenie - Zosumarizuj, na čom ste sa dohodli, daj tímu svoj feedback, ako hodnotíš retrospektívu a ak cítiš potrebu niekoho priamo pochváliť za vykonanú prácu, toto je dobrý čas, kedy to spraviť. Uisti tím v tom, že vieš, že všetci robia maximum a že si na nich všetkých hrdý/-a. Spýtaj sa tiež na spätnú väzbu, aby aj tebe bolo jasné, ako tím vnímal tento míting.
- Welcome - Remember the best presentation or meeting you've seen and the worst. How did it go? The good ones are usually funny and immediately attract people's attention. That's why you can start a meeting with some icebreaker, which will make people smile and tune in positively.
- Explain the meaning - there is nothing worse than when people do not understand why they should have another meeting. Explain the importance of the retrospective and what it is supposed to bring.
- Create a unified awareness - thanks to various forms of retrospective, you can create an atmosphere of a unified understanding of the topic of the meeting, thanks to which you will be better able to work with the team.
- Data generation - this is the core of the retrospective, where the team produces information about what happened and what failed during the sprint. It can happen that the team slides into the phase "what we are going to do with it", while the team should be reminded that we will discuss it later, this phase is about generating data.
- Discussion - Don't judge. On the contrary, moderate the discussion and encourage others to get involved. In this section, we try to figure out what we can do to make our next sprint go smoother.
- Action items - during the discussion, write down your ideas and transform them into clear action items. Make sure that each action item has a person responsible for completing it, but pay attention to their number. If there are many of them and the team cannot fulfill the commitment, it can be a very demotivating factor. One or two will be enough, and they will definitely be fulfilled.
- Closing the meeting and evaluation - Summarize what you agreed on, give the team your feedback on how you evaluate the retrospective and if you feel the need to praise someone directly for the work done, this is a good time when to do it. Assure the team that you know that everyone is doing their best and that you are proud of them all. Also ask for feedback so that it is clear to you how the team perceived this meeting.
We do a retrospective so that everyone in the team can continuously improve, set up a mirror and increase transparency. If this meeting is led by an agile mindset, it can help us create an environment for work in which we will all feel better. I believe that this article helped you with a basic understanding of "WHAT" and "HOW".
I tried to pack all the important components in an imaginary little box and put a Retrospective stamp on it. However, this meeting has many more nooks and crannies, so if you are interested in cases where a retrospective can easily turn into a hell meeting, stay tuned, in the next article we will look at the most common mistakes or situations for which this loving meeting can become counterproductive.