The Sprint Retrospective
- What: An opportunity for the Scrum Team to inspect itself and create a plan for improvements to be enacted during the next Sprint. During each Sprint Retrospective, the Scrum Team plans ways to increase product quality by improving work processes or adapting the definition of “Done”.
- Who: Scrum Team (No Managers).
- When: After the Sprint Review and prior to the next Sprint Planning session. Approx. 1.5 hours per 2-week sprint.
- Inspect: Review how the last Sprint went with regards to sprint goals, people, relationships, process, and tools;
- Review impact of improvements adopted at last retrospective.
- Identify and order (use grouping and ‘dot voting’) the major items that went well. Identify and order the major things that need improving.
- Identify root causes of all major problems impacting the performance of the team (use tools like Five Why’s and Fishbone Diagrams).
- Adapt: Create a plan for implementing improvements to the way the Scrum Team does its work. Commit to at least one improvement and add it to the backlog for the next sprint.
- Root cause determined for any issue that prevented team from meeting objectives
- A set of improvements or corrective actions that the team will implement in the next Sprint. (Implementing these improvements in the next Sprint is the adaptation to the inspection of the Scrum Team itself).
As teams strive to improve their agility and develop an agile mindset they should be deriving ultimate guidance from the 4 Values and 12 Principles of the Agile Manifesto. For example, the first principle states: Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software. Teams should be asking themselves whether their work is consistent with this principle at the conclusion of each sprint, and if not, what improvements they can make to move closer to this goal. To the 12 principles enshrined in the Agile Manifesto, SAFe adds a further 9 principles. Some have suggested that many of these are redundant (does SAFe Principle #8: Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers add anything substantial to Agile Principle #5: Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done?). Does either add anything substantial to the underlying Lean Pillar: Respect For People? Whatever set of principles teams might aspire to (perhaps all of them), it would be a useful exercise for teams to check on how well they are following them from time to time. The retrospective facilitator could make a chart with 2 columns, the first column being a list of principles, the second column is a place for a team to rate their perceptions on how well their practices adhere to the principles – perhaps a dot voting exercise. Once the team registers their views, they can identify improvement actions to take.
The Scrum Master facilitates this meeting. There are many web-based tools available to support the process, such as IdeaBoardz, or RetroRabbit, these are great for distributed teams, and also provide anonymity where desired. Inspection and adaptation is the core of the scrum framework. Mastering and getting comfortable with this practice is essential for teams to learn and grow.
For more on retrospectives, see here.