Retrospectives Basics and Techniques

Master your Retrospective with a solid Understanding of the Basics and try Creative Techniques

As one of the 5 scrum ceremonies, the retrospective plays the critical role of allowing the team to pause and look back on their own performance for the previous Sprint. This regular practice of looking back is more than a lessons learned exercise–it is an essential ingredient in building and maintaining a high-performing team.

Retrospective Basics

The retro captures the team’s perception of their own processes and performance, and well as their ability to change them. Follow this process to get started:

1) Schedule the meeting and set the ground rules.

2) Label a flip chart or white board according to your preferred technique to capture answers to the questions:

  • What is going well?
  • What could be improved?
  • How are we going to accomplish these changes?

3) Ask each team member to jot down thoughts for “what is going well” on a sticky note and post them on the chart or board. This ensures all voices are heard.

4) Ask contributors to clarify what their post means, if needed.

5) Group by theme.

6) Repeat steps 3-5 for “what could be improved.”

7) As a team discuss potential solutions to the areas of improvements, develop action items and assign owners. Post these to the chart or board as well.

Download our Quick Start Guide

Retrospective Techniques

There are many techniques to help your team answer the retrospective questions. The following approaches can help you get started.

Keep, Stop, Start
  • Keep: What do we keep doing?
  • Stop: What do we stop doing or improve?
  • Start: What do we want to do differently?
The Sailboat*
  • Island: What is the goal/vision?
  • Wind: What is helping the team?
  • Anchor: What is holding the team back?
  • Rocks: What are the risks and unknowns?
The Starfish*

Draw 5 lines intersecting at a central point, like arms of a starfish. Label the areas between them: Start, More, Keep, Less, Stop

  • More: Activities worth keeping that the team does not do enough
  • Less: Activities requiring more effort to complete then their benefit or that no longer bring benefit
  • Use Legos to build a creation representing the past Sprint.
  • Build a creation representing the next Sprint.
  • Explain the differences to each other.

*From Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives by Ben Linders and Luis Goncalves

Beyond the Basics

  • Review Accomplishments: Review the burn down chart at the beginning of the meeting.
  • Check Action Item Status: Review last retro’s actions for status updates. Celebrate improvements.
  • No Negative Nellies: Retros are not griping sessions. Require everyone to a potential solution to each problem they identify. While the team may refine the solution, this prevents a litany of problems without constructive recommendations.
  • Document Results: Summarize the retro in a tool like Confluence. Consider creating a board in a tool like JIRA to maintain visibility for action items between retros.
  • Encourage Kudos: Open the floor to allow team members to express appreciation to each other.


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