"Mistakes are useful, but only if you find them quickly", the British economist John Maynard Keynes already had this insight in the 20th century. In order to work effectively and efficiently in the long run, we must always look back and critically evaluate the work we have done. That is why one of the most important basic principles of agility is "inspect and adapt": constant improvement through permanent review. One tool within the framework of Scrum is the retrospective. But what exactly is a retrospective and how does it work? Here we present the most important components of this meeting type.
The power of the retrospective
The retrospective uses the wisdom of John Maynard Keynes: At the end of each iteration (sprint), a meeting takes place with all team members - the so-called retrospective. The meeting serves to identify hidden potential for improvement, jointly analyse errors and discuss solutions. The goal of a retrospective is to incorporate the experience gained into the next upcoming sprint. The team asks itself the following questions: Did we achieve our sprint goal? How satisfied are we with the sprint? How can we further improve our collaboration?
A retrospective is divided into the following five components:
Set the Stage: Creating the External Framework
The basic prerequisite for a successful retrospective is a pleasant atmosphere. Therefore, it must be ensured that team members are not disturbed by external factors during the meeting. Smartphones are switched off or at least muted. Everything that is discussed in the following 90 minutes only leaves the room with the consent of the members. This trust is absolutely essential so that even critical points can be discussed seriously.
Gather Data: Now information is collected
In the second phase, all significant issues that concern the team members are collected and then prioritised. The previous sprint serves as a period of observation. What has happened in the last few weeks? What might have gone wrong, what worked perfectly? Were there any surprises or obstacles?
Generate Insides: What insights do we draw from the facts?
This is one of the most important phases of the retrospective, because now the collected facts are analysed according to priority and cause research is carried out. In the process, it is also noted which obstacles (so-called impediments) cannot be influenced by the team and therefore have to be addressed to the management.
Define Action: How do we want to proceed?
Before the retrospective comes to a close, measures are defined. Now the team has to decide what conclusions to draw for the coming sprints. A popular option is the “starfish” method: What does the team definitely want to keep? What do we need more of? From what less? What do we definitely have to start with? And what do we have to stop with? At the end there are clear rules of conduct and specific measures for further cooperation.
Close Retrospective: time for feedback
At the end of the retrospective, it is checked again whether all findings have been recorded in writing and the next steps have been defined. In addition, the team members have the opportunity to give feedback on the retrospective. The retrospective is always time-boxed, with a two-week sprint it usually ends after 90 minutes. In the classic case, it is moderated by the Scrum Master. He makes sure that all team members have their say and that everyone is heard. Maybe you feel like doing a retrospective in your team yourself? You will be amazed how different the perceptions of the individual team members can be and what creative ideas suddenly gush out from employees who have previously been reluctant. If you are still looking for ideas for holding a retrospective, then stop by the Retromat. Here you will find a variety of suggestions, so that your retro is guaranteed to be successful.
Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great. By Esther Derby and Diana Larsen. Pragmatic Programmers, 2006
Successful retrospectives: procedure, rules, methods, , Judith Andresen, 2013