5 Steps to get your Sprint Retrospective right
Moving away from nonsense retrospectives
How valuable are your Sprint Retrospectives?
If you’d asked me this question a few years ago, I’d say I wish we’d skipped the sessions. Retrospective after retrospective, we talked about the same issues, and nothing changed. We wasted our time.
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I realized we were doing something massively wrong. Retrospectives aren’t time wasters. At least, they should not be. Great retrospectives help teams becomes better and evolve gradually.
Most of the problems were related to a mechanic dynamic without actionable items or items we didn’t act on. Yet, complaints wouldn’t get us anywhere, and we had to work and make our sessions valuable.
Moving from pointless Sprint Retrospectives to valuable ones
What’s the goal of Sprint Retrospectives?
Many teams think it’s about sharing what went well and wrong and the risks and opportunities for the upcoming Sprints. I’d say this is a method and not the purpose.
Directly from the Scrum Guide, “The purpose of the Sprint Retrospective is to plan ways to increase quality and effectiveness.”
To uncover ways to increase quality and effectiveness, you must inspect in-depth and commit to actions. Don’t expect magic from a mechanical, boring Sprint Retrospective. You’ve got to bring the right ingredients to it.
Let me share with you my five ingredients for valuable Sprint Retrospectives:
Icebreaker: Sprints are intense, and teams are deeply involved in getting things done. You cannot expect team members to join retrospectives and automatically step back from their busy routines. Icebreakers can help your teams arrive at the retrospective session. Simple examples like describing the Sprint with an image or a song will do the work.
Actions Review: Only what you measure will progress. If you set actions and forget about them, nothing will happen. Dedicate 10 to 15 minutes to review the previously agreed actions. Try understanding whether they were done and how they helped the team.
Inspection: For each Sprint Retrospective, try a different dynamic to help team members inspect the Sprint. For example, make one session with a sailboat, another with the four L’s, and then with stop, start, and continue. Varying the formats keeps the session interactive and engaging.
Action: After inspecting the Sprint, cluster the points and prioritize what you want to change. Define a maximum of three actions and commit to achieving them by the end of the next Sprint. Limiting the actions is vital because you don’t want to overwhelm the team.
Tune Out: As you’ve defined the actions, it’s time to wrap up the session. You can do it in different ways, and varying is essential. You can get feedback from the session, encourage the team members to give kudos or ask how confident they are about the upcoming Sprint. This will provide closure and set you to start the next Sprint.
This format is simple but powerful. I’ve used it for years and could observe teams moving from ordinary ones to high performance. The journey isn’t fast, but revealing.
A few questions for you
Which actions are you taking to help your team grow?
How satisfied are you with the results?
How about sharing that with the team and taking action to reach better results?
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