Sprint Retrospectives


What is an Agile Retrospective?

The Agile Retrospective is a regularly schedule event for the team to inspect & adapt their processes and their way of working together. It is perhaps the most critical of all Scrum ceremonies and often the most misused or poorly facilitated.

What’s the Benefit?

Retrospectives ensure the team has time to reflect, celebrate and improve. Quality Retrospectives enhance team engagement, empower the Team to solve process related issues and improve overall performance.


At the end of every Sprint and before Sprint Planning. It is recommended that 60 to 90 minutes be used for quality Retrospectives. Having at least 60 minutes for the team to reflect is critical.

Who attends?

  • Scrum Master (Facilitator)
  • Delivery Team
  • Product Owner
  • Most Teams do NOT invite others as it may impact discussions and psychological safety.


  • Metrics and outcomes of the current Sprint
  • The action items from the previous Retrospective
  • An open mind to change


  • One or two action items the team agrees may improve performance, often in the form of S.M.A.R.T. Goals.
    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Attainable
    • Relevant
    • Time-based
  • Action items are often entered into the upcoming Sprint Backlog or the Team’s Improvement Backlog

Preparing for success

Team Preparation

The Team should know the outcomes of the most recent action items from the previous Retrospectives, the outcomes from the current Sprint and think about items to celebrate or improve.

Facilitator Preparation

Since Retrospectives require the Team to reflect and ask difficult questions, it’s critical that formats are changed often to ensure the process does not become stale. The facilitator should prepare a new facilitation-techniques and ask different questions on a regular basis.


The best way to execute a Retrospective is widely debated. However, most seasoned Agilists agree that at least one action item (preferably a S.M.A.R.T. Goal) is agreed on by the team and tracked in the upcoming Sprint. How teams get there, is what is up for debate.

5-Step Agile Retrospective

This was popularized by The Agile Retrospective book (Derby, Larsen) and is the most highly recommended method. If your Retrospectives aren’t productive or improvements have slowed, this may be a good approach.


  1. Set the Stage

Quickly review the guardrails and have everyone greet each other. Often asking for a short one-to-five-word check in. This is also a great time to review metrics and celebrate outcomes.

  1. Gather Data

Get feedback and input from the Team. Brainstorm ideas of what went well and what needs to be improved.

  1. Generate Insights

Ask, “Why”? Gain agreement and prioritize items from step 2.

  1. Decide what to do

This is the most critical stage and the Team needs to agree on one or two improvement items, how those items will be measured and when the measurements should be reviewed. The S.M.A.R.T. goals are created here.

  1. Close the Retrospective.

Close strong and retro the retrospective.

Best Practices

  • The facilitator must be impartial, and some organizations get good results by having Scrum Masters facilitate Retrospectives for other teams. This helps cross pollinate facilitation techniques and ensures facilitators don’t have too much bias.
  • A Retrospectives is really a brainstorming session occurring every two-weeks or 26 times a year. Facilitators should change facilitation techniques often to help teams stay thoughtful and creative.
  • Retrospectives require psychological safety more than any other ceremony. Remind the Team often to focus on the process and not the people.
  • While agile ceremonies should be transparent and non-team members can be invited, it’s often best to keep the Retrospective closed to just the Team to ensure safety.
  • Ensure there is time to celebrate and connect to build engagement and empowerment.
  • Be careful in taking on too many action items as it can become difficult to achieve measurable results for multiple items and deeply understand what items lead to improvement. This is why the recommendation of one or two it pretty consistent.
  • If results from the precious Retrospective were less than expected, consider trying the action item for a little longer as there are times when the first time around, the team is still learning to implement the action item and a little practice may be all that’s needed.