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Why Retrospectives are Important in Agile

The sprint retrospective is a tried and true way to evaluate progress. It helps us better understand our processes and realigns the team with the product goal. Despite its advantages, some teams are moving away from retrospectives. Some say the meetings are too time-consuming. Others believe they have no value.

We strongly disagree.

At EasyRetro, we love a retrospective. Whether you’re performing one at the end of your sprint or hosting a release retrospective, they are an important event for agile teams. That’s why today’s blog will serve as a refresher to help you remember why retrospectives are important agile — and why we think you should keep running them.

Table of contents

10 reasons why retrospectives are so important in agile

While we could probably come up with hundreds of reasons why retrospectives are important in agile, here are 10 to help us prove our point.

Retrospectives allow time for self-reflection

Retrospectives allow us to take a step back and take a holistic look at the work we’ve done so far. It’s a time to look at yourself as an individual and identify ways you could improve. It also allows you to take some time to congratulate yourself when something goes well.

Retrospectives create shared understanding within the team

Sometimes we need a little time to look at a project from a different perspective. This helps us gather a clear picture of the product we’re building and the reason we’re building it.

During a retrospective, the team has a chance to discuss the next steps. This is a perfect opportunity to check in with each team member and ensure they’re all aligned before continuing work.

Retrospectives help set action items

Managing a project is difficult if you don’t receive regular updates. If a product manager is out of the loop, they risk planning sprints and next steps that have already been completed. This wastes everyone’s time and confuses the entire process, resulting in low-quality work and a poor final product.

Retrospectives help teams identify and resolve conflict

Conflict can brew within a team without anyone “in charge” realizing it. Personal conflict can often be withheld from the team to avoid disrupting workflow. Unfortunately, hidden conflict can be just as disruptive as a full-on argument.

The retrospective offers an excellent opportunity for team members to speak up about their concerns. Even if they don’t address them directly in the retrospective, they can be noted down for later discussion.

Retrospectives helps keep the project on track

Agile frameworks break down big projects into smaller, manageable sprints. This helps keep the project running smoothly and, crucially, stops the project from being derailed by a lack of planning.

Teams are bound to find new challenges and ideas during any development process. But we risk losing track of where we should be if we just jump straight into these new tasks. Teams that run regular retrospectives can table an idea or issue for a later sprint. This means they can continue with the assigned tasks and focus on building value into the product rather than worrying about a new task.

Retrospectives create transparency

With each retrospective, the team extensively documents how the product came together. This makes it incredibly easy to keep stakeholders and other interested parties in the loop, even if check-ins are sporadic.

Retrospectives also encourage teams to be more open with each other. A project can’t progress if team members are afraid to speak up about mistakes or issues. A retro meeting gives the team an open and safe platform to ask for help when needed.

Retrospectives help agile teams continually improve

The main questions in a retrospective are:

  • What went well?
  • What went badly?
  • What can we do to improve?

Essentially, the entire agile event is a practice in self-improvement. Using a supportive peer network, you can assess your strengths as a team and as individuals. Most importantly, you’re in a safe position to discuss ways to improve constructively and helpfully.

Retrospectives encourage participation and ownership from the whole team

There’s no room for heroes and villains in the world of agile. Each team member is equally responsible for the product and its development.

Collective ownership is an agile philosophy that states “every” team member has a duty to make changes to the product if required. It encourages the whole team to speak up and contribute new ideas to all aspects of the project, be it a new feature idea or a way to improve workflow.

Retrospectives provide the perfect opportunity for those ideas to flow. As we discuss the next steps, it can be extremely helpful for team members to speak up with new ideas, even if they don’t work out.

Retrospectives help build collaboration, communication, and trust within the team

The best products are made by teams that trust each other and work as a symbiotic unit. Retrospectives give teams the chance to remember that.

They may have spent the entire sprint working alone, especially with distributed teams. Getting the entire team together to discuss their progress helps team members realize they are a team — not a collectivion of individual workers.

Retrospectives help you identify and avoid past mistakes

History has a habit of repeating itself. Unfortunately, that applies to mistakes too. However, retrospectives give you a chance to avoid those mistakes.

As we mentioned earlier, each retrospective produces lots of documentation to learn from. That documentation lays out processes or ideas that didn’t work out and why they failed.

By looking over this information, you can gauge whether these ideas were just too ambitious for that project or should never be tried again. This helps you avoid making the same mistake twice and results in better products.

Put the fun back into retrospectives

If you’re feeling like retrospectives are getting a little dull, don’t give up on them! Instead, try something a little more fun to revitalize your team.

EasyRetro doesn’t just make product management simple — we make it fun and engaging with a wide range of templates and fully customizable boards. Get started for free today!

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