This guide shows how to get started with a retrospective (retro) meeting.
Retros are an important part of the agile process. They give the team a chance to reflect and share what went well and what didn't. Retros should result in action items for improvement — for example, on work processes or environment.
While feedback can be given at any meeting, retros help embed this practice into the team culture.
- allows the team to speak honestly in a supportive environment
- helps to tackle issues and challenges quickly
- celebrates success.
Retros help create a more inclusive, collaborative and efficient team - they help the team focus how to work effectively together.
Setting up a retro
Participants in a retro
A retro includes all team members. A retro needs a facilitator to keep things on track - this can be the scrum master.
Stakeholders may be added if they have valuable insights. However, remember that honesty makes a retro work. Because of that, some retros exclude managers and senior staff.
When to run a retro
A retro can be:
- a regularly scheduled session — for example, a sprint retro
- a special session to address serious issues — for example, a post-mortem retro.
A sprint retro takes place at the end of a sprint cycle — usually a 2 week period. A retro can also be held when a project or piece of work is finished.
Tools for running a retro
For in-person meetings, a whiteboard and post-it notes can be used. For virtual teams, there are many online tools available, such as Miro or EasyRetro.
Running a retro
The following is one example of running a retro. You can set an hour to run your retro and adjust as needed.
Start by setting a supportive environment
Remind participants to be open, honest and supportive, and to work together as collaborators. This is explained by the Prime Directive, which is a guiding statement that retros follow.
Get the team to give their insights
On the whiteboard, set up 3 spaces for the team to provide feedback on. Each deals with one of the 3 questions:
- What worked well? This celebrates the team's successes and achievements.
- What could be improved? This highlights issues or problems.
- What actions can we take for next time? The team makes suggestions for improvement.
Give people time to add their thoughts to the first 2 questions.
Allow time for feedback and discussion
If there are a lot of action items in each section, consider voting to finalise the list for discussion. Ideally you should discuss each of the 3 questions.
Decide on action items for next time
Make sure you end your session with agreed action items for the team to take forward.
Other retro models
Adapt your retro to meet your team's needs. Other retro formats include:
- Stop, Start, Continue — this asks the team what they'd like to start, stop and continue doing.
- Sailboat — this visually lists positive and negative aspects of the project.
- Lean Coffee — this helps the team prioritise topics or ideas to discuss.
Tips for a good retro
- Focus on the reason for running a retro, rather than the method.
- Make sure that everyone feels equal and that all contributions are valued.
- Create a safe and non-judgemental space for the team.
- Celebrate successes and highlight good practices and behaviours.
- Record the action items — they can be used to show progress at the next team retro.
Things to avoid
- Don't try to be perfect. You'll get better with time and practice.
- Don't use a retro to find fault or someone to blame.
- Don't make things personal.
More resources on agile
Use stand-ups to connect, plan and share roadblocks.
Sprints are time-boxed periods during which team tasks will be completed.
A scrum master facilitates the running of a stand-up.
Join the Digital Profession's Agile and Lean Community
You'll find more resources, advice and support in the Digital Profession's Agile and Lean Community. It's an open and safe space to connect with peers, share experiences, ask questions and help solve common problems.
The community also runs a 'Lean Coffee' meetup every second Thursday of the month. This event is open to anyone who would like to discuss topics around agile, lean start-up, DevOps and more. Lean Coffee is a structured, but agenda-less, meeting. Participants gather, build an agenda, and begin talking. Conversations are relevant and productive because the agenda for the meeting was democratically generated. Find out more on the home page of the Agile and Lean Community.