What is a sprint retrospective

Great teams are always growing and improving. However, constant growth and improvement can't happen without a chance to pause and reflect on the work the team has already done and the work ahead. That is the entire motivation for a Sprint Retrospective. But what is a Sprint Retrospective? The basic concept of a retrospective can happen at any time, but the Sprint Retrospective is a very particular tool that occurs while a project is still in motion. It is designed to take place between the Sprint Review and the next Sprint Planning.

Who Should Attend the Sprint Retrospective Meeting?

The Sprint Retrospective is an all-hands meeting with the whole Scrum Team and anyone from outside the team who is heavily involved or impacted by the work of the team. This makes it critical that the retrospective is effective since it represents a substantial investment in person-hours.

How Long Should a Sprint Retrospective Meeting Be?

The length of a Sprint Retrospective is based on the length of the actual sprint. One-month sprints usually require a three-hour meeting where shorter sprints require shorter sessions. For instance, 90 minutes is adequate for a two-week sprint.

What Is Discussed in a Sprint Retrospective?

While there are several available specific formats, in general, the Sprint Retrospective is intended to be a chance for the Scrum team to take a moment for introspection. It is a chance to reflect on processes and behaviors and correct or modify anything that will improve the effectiveness of the next sprint. To facilitate this, the retrospective is based on three questions:

  • What worked well in the sprint?
  • What didn't work well and could be improved?
  • What will we commit to doing differently in the next sprint?

Notice that the Sprint Retrospective has both past and future components, and this is essential. To spend valuable time reviewing past performance without an action plan to move forward is not worth the cost of taking an entire team away from their work for three hours. Likewise, brainstorming ideas for improvement without a thorough review of past performance is just guesswork.

What Are the Benefits of a Sprint Retrospective?

Sprint Retrospectives take advantage of the iterative nature of Agile development. Each sprint holds the possibility of improvements over the last. Only by taking time to reflect and plan for growth can we access the full range of benefits of the Agile approach. Constant improvement only comes through consistent self-evaluation. Sprint Retrospectives are also an opportunity to reinforce the team's ownership of the project. By giving the team a role in evaluating progress, they are more likely to support any changes that are contained in the next iteration.

In an Agile setting, improvement can be and should be considered at any point in the project. However, the process of the Sprint Retrospective ensures that the team takes intentional time to reflect and plan how to continually improve.

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