How to manage efficient sprint retrospectives

retro

Sprint retrospective is one of five official events defined in The Scrum Guide™. This event should take place every sprint. There are sometimes sprints for which people don’t feel a need to have a retro. It could be because of a non-productive sprint, short sprint and an absence most of team members. In those situations organizing a retro meeting sounds like time wasting. In this post I’d like to take into account how scrum master can face it and encourage others to participate in a retro. I’ll present it basing on my experience in organizing these kind of meeting.

In general people working in a scrum team enjoy this meeting. This mainly occurs when people are prepared for that, respect this agile methodology and meetings are appropriately conducted. Things may look different when we have an unusual sprint that makes impression that nothing was done. In general, words organizing and meeting are not encouraging, especially when it comes to cases in which participants don’t see a sense of them. A common imagination of a sprint retro is going to a meeting room, thinking what we were doing and being ready to talking, listening, reading and writing. Fortunately every retrospective does not have to be the same. At least, it shouldn’t be. Of course every occurrence is unique because of time and accompanying circumstances. It’s quite common to have the same venue and approach to execution. There are factors like time, place and arguments expressing reasons to have meetings adjusted to a current sprint. Thanks to these factors it is possible to extract optimal value from meetings and encourage people to take part in. Let’s now focus on the areas in which we can act in order to achieve retro’s goals.

Current sprint identification

1)   Classify a sprint as a regular or an unusual.
2)   For a regular sprint execute your common approach to a retro.
3)   If you deal with an unusual sprint you need to take more effort to organize efficient retro.
4)   Do not keep retrospectives for regular sprints in an ordinary way. They soon become boring. There are factors like place, time, agile games and food that can help to diversify each occurrence.
5)   Keep in mind the purpose of a retrospective. It is not worth to organize it because the guide says that. Focus on values that it may bring.

Arguments

1)   In regular sprints i.e. in which many things had happened are not subject of refusing retrospectives by team members. In other cases sprint retrospective should be carefully suited to a current sprint.
2)   When many people were absent then it still makes sense to have a meeting in order to make aware those people of what was in the sprint. The sprint probably delivered an increment which can be an input to the next one.
3)   Talk to team if you see or expect circumstances to reject a sprint retro. Try to make a meeting as attractive as possible. When there are no more reasons to organize a retro, suggest having a lunch together with a whole team. It’ll be an opportunity to talk and in fact will very likely meet retro expectations.

Time

It is quite common to have constant schedule for retrospectives. It is a general rule for recurring meetings. Start time and duration should be fixed. The actual duration of a certain meeting can be shorter depending on current needs. In other words meetings are time boxed.

Place

1)   First of all. Don’t have a retro every time in the same place. It’s a good practice to have it outside, not in a work place. It can be in a restaurant, beer garden, park and so on.
2)   Make it more relaxing activity than an ordinary work.
3)   Ensure that people will feel comfortable and enjoy spending time together.

Summary

Sprint retrospective is important because it allows assessing a current sprint, prepare actions to improve in the next sprint. It can be a good opportunity to boost team spirit as well. This post puts emphasis on areas that could be considered when you care of team work in the scrum methodology.

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