What is the goal of the sprint retrospective meeting?

Few development frameworks are as well-known and widely adopted as Scrum.

A variant of the agile development model, Scrum relies on a process of continuous iteration broken into time-limited sprints. But to make Scrum really work, it’s essential for teams to take the time to review what went right (and what went wrong) during each iteration session too.

It’s here that the sprint retrospective steps in.

What is the goal of the sprint retrospective meeting?

Below, we’ll share not just one, but five sprint retrospective goals and how teams can best achieve them. That way, you’ll know exactly what you’re aiming for in your next retrospective meeting.

Retrospective goal 1: To pinpoint what went right in the last sprint

It’s easy to focus on the negative, so let’s start with the positive.

One of your retrospective goals should be to assess what the team did right in the last sprint. Were any tasks completed ahead of schedule? Were any new solutions found which might help in the future? Did the team reach key milestones?

All of these things should be discussed and recognized to ensure the team knows that their contributions are truly valued.

Retrospective goal 2: To pinpoint what went wrong in the last sprint

Of course, there’s a flipside to every sprint: and things won’t always go to plan.

Mistakes happen. So there’ll almost always be a few things which could have gone better, and the sprint retrospective meeting is the place to discuss them.

Importantly, though, this is not about blame.

Be sure to make that clear up front. It’s easy for team members to feel attacked or singled-out if what went wrong happens to be something they were responsible for. The focus should remain on the project and the roadmap — never on the individual. And to keep the true essence of this retrospective goal in mind: continuous improvement.

If you’re looking for an easy way to unpack the rights and wrongs of a sprint, you can use our Went Well – To Improve template to simplify the process.

Retrospective goal 3: To identify areas that could be improved next time

Even negatives have the power to improve your ways of working — that’s why the template we shared above has a column for ‘To improve’. But it’s not always easy to see the opportunities, when you’re faced with the “failures”.

One handy tool your team could use is the Rose, Bud, Thorn exercise.

How does this help? It’ll create a low-pressure, structured model with which you can identify the sprint’s positives (the roses), the areas of improvement (the buds), and the things which didn’t go the way you’d hoped (the thorns).

If team members are having a hard time opening up, or repositioning their losses as potential future wins, this can really help. So give it a shot.

Retrospective goal 4: Give team members an open forum for expression

Talking of team members opening up, that should be another central goal of the sprint retrospective.

As we mentioned, this isn’t easy for everyone. It’s a big ask to have folks identify areas where they might not have reached a certain standard or milestone, and there’s a balance to be struck.

One way to keep things positive is to allow team members the time to air their feelings — positive or negative — during the retrospective. This helps them feel valued and listened-to, and sometimes that’s all that’s necessary to keep a team from clashing.

(Just don’t forget that open sharing doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Patience is a virtue).

Hands trying to catch a target

Retrospective goal 5: Create (and commit to) a list of action items

The final, and probably most important, retrospective meeting goal is to distill the meeting down into actionable items.

How many meetings have you attended where everyone agreed a plan but, after the meeting, nothing happened? To avoid this, the meeting’s facilitator — be that the Scrum Master or someone else — documents action points as they arise during the conversation.

If possible, you should try to assign tasks to specific individuals during the meeting, so that they don’t forget as soon as the session ends. In the next sprint planning meeting, you can leverage this list of action items to ensure the iterative spirit of agile and Scrum is maintained for the next leg of development.

Make your retrospectives work smarter (not harder) with EasyRetro

With the right tools, used correctly, retrospective meetings can be an opportunity to improve team unity, motivation, and — ultimately — deliver a better product.

And with EasyRetro, you can make your retrospectives faster, simpler, and, yes, even more productive.

Don’t believe us? Start your free trial today and discover how easy it can be.

Want to create a free retrospective with your team?