What is an Agile Sprint Retrospective?

Practice makes perfect has been a quote many of us have all heard. However, what if what we have been practice is flawed. The end result would be a disastrous result rather than perfect. As Vince Lombardi once said, “Perfect practice makes perfect”. Reflection is the first step of achieving “perfect”. Sprint Retrospectives are meetings in which Scrum Teams reflect on themselves and their work, producing an actionable plan for improving. Sprint Retrospectives are the final event in each Sprint, marking the end of each Sprint cycle (Starr, 2012). They provide an opportunity to grow and to better understand the project in general. Agile sprint retrospectives are extremely important and may be the most important step of the entire sprint process.

Standing up during Sprint meetings fosters more activity.

Some individuals see retrospectives as a waste of time and wonder why conduct the retrospective in the first place? Shirly Ronen-Harel puts it best when explaining the positive aspects of the session. “Each team member sees things differently, if we wish to improve as a team we need to get everyone’s opinion to the context of the team. Without a retrospective session, the team will probably continue to make the same mistakes all over again… and the rate of improvement will be lower than it can get” (Ronen-Harel, 2013). Agile is all about maximizing each team member’s strengths.

Agile was created as an improvement to the bulkier style of Waterfall and Code-and-fix. A large problem with them is that they don’t provide opportunities for small scale growth and improvement. Once a portion of the project is finished in Waterfall, the team is unable to go back and review what could be improved upon; they must continue on with the project. “The majority of feedback for the Sprint Retrospective confirmed that teams use this activity to make tactical decisions about process, specifically around short-term improvements” (Drury et al., 2011, p.44). These retrospectives are a key part of what sets agile apart from the other development methods.

The bare-bones purpose of the retrospective is an elaborated pros and deltas overviews of the recent sprint, including what worked well, and what could be improved upon. Scrum masters are involved in these meetings to overview what is discussed between the group and give input on what would best benefit the team.

Start, Stop, and Continue.

A general guideline when conducting sprint retrospectives is the simple three-step method of Start, Stop, and Continue. Start refers to what to start doing in the next sprint. This may include something as obvious as unresponsive members communicating more. Stop is what you think it is; it refers to what to stop doing in the next sprint. Finally, continue is what has been working well. Keep doing whatever it is, because it will lead to a better final product.

Drury, M., Conboy, K., & Power, K. (2011). Decision Making in Agile Development. 2011 Agile Conference, 39-47.  Retrieved from http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=6005504

Ronen-Harel, S. (2013). The Retrospective Session for Everyone. Agile Coaching for Everyone. Retrieved from http://agileandfamily.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-retrospective-session-for-everyone.html

Starr, D. (2013). Effective Sprint Retrospectives. Microsoft Developer Network. Retrieved from http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj620912.aspx

Image credit to: http://thewestsidestory.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/standing-up-meeting.jpg

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