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The Sprint Retrospective is a crucial event in the Scrum framework that provides the Scrum Team with an opportunity to reflect on its performance and identify ways to improve.

However, this is a tricky meeting to get right, and new Scrum Teams sometimes struggle to get value from this key event. If a team does not get value from the Sprint Retrospective, it could indicate that the retrospective is not being conducted effectively. This could result in a lack of progress or improvement in the team’s performance, which could negatively impact the team’s ability to deliver high-quality work.

When Sprint Retrospectives go wrong!

Some common symptoms of a team that is not getting value from the Sprint Retrospective include:

  • Lack of participation: If team members are not engaged or participating in the retrospective, it may indicate that they are not seeing the value in the process.
  • Lack of action items: If the team is not generating action items or implementing changes, it may indicate that they are not finding the retrospective useful in identifying areas for improvement.
  • Lack of follow-up: If the team is not following up on action items, it may indicate that they are not taking the retrospective seriously or do not see the value in making changes.
  • Repeat issues: If the same issues are being discussed in multiple retrospectives, it may indicate that the team is not effectively addressing the root causes of their problems.

If a team is not getting value from the Sprint Retrospective, it’s important for the Scrum Master to step in and help the team find ways to make the process more effective. This could involve making changes to the retrospective format, encouraging more participation and engagement, or finding ways to make the retrospective more relevant and actionable. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that the team is using the Sprint Retrospective as an opportunity for continuous improvement.

Retrospective Mistakes

Following are some common mistakes that can be made during the Sprint Retrospective, see how many you resonate with:

  1. Missing the Sprint Retrospective! Busy teams can decide that they have too much to do and so elect to skip the Retrospective. This is a huge mistake. When everyone is busy working they dont have time to reflect on practices and just try to work harder and harder to overcome challenges and friction. The teams that skip the Retrospective just get bogged down in daily and weekly problems that never seem to resolve themselves.
  2. Not preparing for the Retrospective: The Scrum Master and the Development Team should prepare for the Sprint Retrospective by reviewing the Sprint’s progress and identifying areas for improvement.
  3. Failing to identify root causes: The Sprint Retrospective should be focused on identifying the root causes of problems and not just the symptoms.
  4. Not involving all team members: All members of the Scrum Team should be actively engaged in the Sprint Retrospective. If some team members are not participating, their perspective and insights will be missed.
  5. Not following up on action items: The Sprint Retrospective should result in a set of action items that the Scrum Team commits to completing before the next Sprint. If these action items are not followed up on, the value of the Sprint Retrospective is diminished.
  6. Not making changes: The goal of the Sprint Retrospective is to identify and make changes that will improve the Scrum Team’s performance. If the same issues are discussed in multiple retrospectives without any action being taken, the retrospective is not serving its purpose.
  7. Not making it a safe environment: The Sprint Retrospective should be a safe and open environment where team members can freely share their thoughts and opinions. If team members do not feel comfortable speaking up, the retrospective will not be effective.
  8. Failing to set clear objectives: The Sprint Retrospective should have clear objectives that the team wants to achieve. If the objectives are not clear, the team may wander off topic or fail to make meaningful progress.
  9. Not considering the data: The Sprint Retrospective should be based on data such as Sprint progress, team velocity, and customer feedback. Failing to consider this data can result in a retrospective that is not grounded in reality.
  10. Lack of creativity: The Sprint Retrospective should be a time for the team to be creative and think outside the box. If the team simply repeats the same actions from the previous Sprint, it will not result in meaningful improvement.
  11. Not seeking outside input: When *needed* the Sprint Retrospective can involve stakeholders, customers, and other members of the organization – to offer insight and support. When dealing with particularly difficulat challenges, if the team only considers only its own perspective, it may miss important insights and opportunities for improvement.

By avoiding these common mistakes, the Sprint Retrospective can be a valuable tool for the Scrum Team to continuously improve its processes and performance.

Avoiding Retrospective Regrets!

Here’s how to mitigate the common mistakes during the Sprint Retrospective:

  1. Make Time to Retrospect! This is the most straightforward answer to the first mistake. Is it easy? No. But great Retrospectives help teams find efficiencies and over come common problems when things are challenging. Great teams know that the Sprint Retrospective is critical to constant improvement and reduced team friction – they make the time!
  2. Failing to prepare: To mitigate this mistake, the Scrum Master and the Development Team should review the Sprint’s progress and identify areas for improvement before the Sprint Retrospective. This preparation will ensure that the team is ready to have a productive discussion. This is as simple as taking 10 minutes prior to the Sprint Retrospective to reflect on how the last Sprint went. Individually a team member can ask themselves, did the team complete the Sprint Goal? Were there any frictions? Did we make any mistakes or could we have simply done things better? Going in prepared makes a huge difference to the successful outcomes of a useful Sprint Retrospective.
  3. Failing to identify root causes: Failing to identify root causes means that the Team may repeat the same mistakes over and over. To avoid this mistake, once the Team has agreed on which challenges to work on, they can use some root cause analysis techniques, such as the “5 Whys” method, to identify the underlying causes of problems.
  4. Not involving all team members: To ensure that all team members are involved, the Scrum Master should encourage a safe environment to share thoughts and participation from everyone and facilitate open and honest communication. The team should also make sure that all members have equal opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions without judgement.
  5. Not following up on action items: Teams sometimes come up with great action items to prevent problems from repeating. However sometimes these action items are forgotten whilst the team focuses on delivery. To avoid this mistake, the team should create a clear plan for implementing the action items, volunteer for specific tasks, and support each other in following through.
  6. Not making changes: Similar to point 5 above – the team should prioritize the action items and create a plan for implementation – a really simple approach is to ensure the action items are on the Sprint Backlog so they are not forgotten. The team should also regularly revisit the action items to track progress and make necessary adjustments.
  7. Not creating a safe environment: A great way to create a safe enviroment is through using various facilitation approaches to establish ground rules for the Sprint Retrospective, such as active listening, confidentiality, and respect for all participants. Reflecting on the Retrospective Prime directive and its meaning is also critical for setting the tone for a safe environment. The Scrum Master should also ensure that the team feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions.
  8. Failing to set clear objectives: To mitigate this mistake, the team should revist the objectives and purpose for the Sprint Retrospective, such as identifying areas for improvement or developing a plan for the next Sprint.
  9. Not considering the data: When possible, the team should review relevant data, such as Sprint progress, flow metrics, team velocity, say do ratios and customer feedback etc, before the Sprint Retrospective. This data should inform the team’s discussions and decisions.
  10. Lack of creativity: To avoid this mistake, the team should encourage creativity and encourage members to think outside the box. The team could also try new methods for the Sprint Retrospective, such as brainstorming sessions or collaborative problem-solving.
  11. Not seeking outside input: To avoid this mistake, the team should seek input from relevant people that can help improve the performance of the Scrum Team. These can be Stakeholders, Agile Coaches, other Scrum Masters, enlightened Managers, and other members of the organization. This can help the team get a broader perspective and identify new opportunities for improvement.

The Sprint Retrospective is mandatory in the Scrum framework. Knowing the common mistakes that teams make when running this meeting can make the difference between a motivated happy and productive team vs one that just drowns in challenges.

Remember, the objective of the Sprint Retrospective in Scrum is to inspect the team’s performance during the previous Sprint and identify areas for improvement. The aim is to continuously improve the team’s process and performance by learning from past experiences.

The outcome of the Sprint Retrospective is a plan for the team to make improvements in their process, workflow, or collaboration for the next Sprint. The team should leave the Sprint Retrospective with a clear understanding of what they did well and what they need to improve. The team should also have a plan for implementing these improvements, and be committed to making them in the next Sprint.

Additionally, the Sprint Retrospective provides an opportunity for the team to bond and improve their relationship, as well as to build trust and establish a culture of continuous improvement. The outcome of the Sprint Retrospective should result in a more productive and efficient team that delivers higher quality work.

Are you looking for agile training, consulting or programme delivery solutions that will help your team improve their processes and outcomes? At Fractal Systems we provide comprehensive Agile Training and Consulting services to equip teams with the knowledge they need to succeed. Our experienced professionals can also help turn around challenging projects by providing expertise in Sprint Reviews and Retrospectives. Contact us today to learn more about how our innovative solutions can drive success for your organisation!

Further Agile Scrum Training

 Online Professional Scrum Master Training I (PSMI)

 Online Professional Scrum Master Training II (PSMII)

 Online Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO)

 Professional Scrum Product Owner Advanced (PSPO-A)

 Applying Professional Scrum (APS)