How to Energize Your Sprint Retrospective

Do you need to bring more energy into your team’s Sprint Retrospectives? Have the team members lost motivation and started to consider the Retrospective a boring and time-consuming “must”? Take a step back and try to see if you are stuck in a negative pattern, and find a way to break it.

One of the principles behind the Agile Manifesto is: “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.” This is what the Sprint Retrospective meeting is for. Having a culture of Continuous Improvement is crucial in order for an organization to realize the benefits of agile and lean.

But there is a risk that motivation falls after a number of iterations, and that team members down-prioritize the retrospectives for seemingly more urgent tasks.  Some common pitfalls to look out for are:

  • No action was taken on previous Retrospective findings. Maybe the action items were too big, too vague or lacked ownership.
  • Retrospectives get stuck in the same discussions every time. The facilitator needs to set the boundaries and ensure that only the latest sprint is discussed, and bring some data to start the discussions. He or she should also go back to basics and remind the team why we do retrospectives: To learn, share knowledge and find ways to improve on the team’s ways of working.
  • Team members do not feel safe airing their concerns, or the same persons always dominate the discussions. The facilitator has the responsibility to ensure the Retrospective meeting is a safe place where all members trust each other and feel encouraged to share their thoughts. Critique (not critisism!) should be encouraged but always delivered in a respectful way. Findings and action items should be made public to the rest of the organization, but attributed to the team rather than an individual.
  • Retrospective meetings have become too negative, with too much whining and blame-game. It is the facilitator’s responsibility to encourage a positive and constructive attitude. Transferring responsibility to the team by asking “What can we as a team do about it?” is one way of leading the discussions in the right direction. The retrospective is about learning and looking ahead, not about blaming and looking back.
  • Finally, one reason motivation drops could be that the Retrospectives are always conducted in the same way. Rotating the role of facilitator could be one way to break the monotony. To bring some more energy to the meeting, try a new meeting format. There are lots of ideas available on the internet, and one of the more exhaustive collections are the Fun Retrospectives website: http://www.funretrospectives.com/

Our partners at Atlassian have written an excellent Team Playbook, which among many other things has a step-by-step guide on how to run a Retrospective:

https://www.atlassian.com/team-playbook/plays/retrospective

Good luck on your Continuous Improvement journey, and let us know how we at Sellegi can help you!

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