Some people underestimate sprint retrospective meetings and think of it as simply the time when a sprint ends and they can move on to what’s coming next week. But in reality, this meeting provides an opportunity for the team to identify relevant action items to improve their performance. This is the moment where the team can meet and examine each other’s performance for the sake of the project. It’s also an opportunity to update and improve the team’s definition of done.
There are many ways to lead a retrospective meeting. I’ll share with you what has worked for us.
At the beginning of each meeting
Make the purpose of the meeting clear for everyone. If this is the team’s first retrospective meeting, it’s important to define how it will work and mention the rules. The Scrum Master (as moderator) should make sure that everyone has their say.
A brief summary…
Refresh everyone’s memories about what happened during the sprint that just ended. Offer a brief summary of the most important events of the ending sprint. You could also merge this part with the next section (the brainstorming part). The team can share their ideas and opinions while the Scrum Master tells them about the most important events that occurred during the last sprint. In this way, they could express their thoughts while remembering the events.
This is when the team refers to tasks that went well, could have been done better or went simply bad. Those three areas can be called differently depending on your approach, we personally use:
- Start doing
- Continue doing
- Stop doing
The areas could be tools and methods, communication, working styles, processes, etc.
In my experience, people can lack the confidence to be straightforward and say what they really think about an issue. The Scrum Master should try to elicit their thoughts and help them express themselves. Tact is important here. You need to choose the right words to avoid being offensive when referring to the way that people do certain things. Being indirect can also help, by talking about the issue and not the person who caused it.
Room for improvement
It is important to have action items for every identified issue. And the Scrum Master should make sure that she follows up on each of those. Some people suggest focusing on only a couple action items per sprint.
Closing the meeting
Here is where the Scrum Master gives a brief summary of what was achieved during the meeting. Thank everyone for their time and energy invested in this important event. They should reflect on the way the meeting was conducted and find ways to improve it if necessary.
I personally believe that leading a retrospective meeting is part psychology and part engineering. You have to know how to work with people, communicate effectively, and manage communication among the team.
We have developed our own tool to manage retrospective meetings (as well as pointing sessions): TangoSource’s Planning Poker. We invite you to use it and tell us if you find it useful, and if you have any suggestions. You can read more about it in this other post from us. Plus, it’s free!
We also offer Scrum project management consulting, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to hear more.
Thanks for reading! Let me know how your experience has been with retro meetings (and any tips or tricks you might have learned) in the comment section below.