In this article, we will talk about the Sprint Retrospective event (ceremony) in Scrum. As we know from the Scrum Guide, the Sprint Retrospective is an opportunity for the Scrum Team to inspect itself and create a plan for improvements to be enacted during the next Sprint. So, let's talk about the Sprint Retrospective meeting more detailed.
No matter how good a Scrum team is, there will be an opportunity to improve. Although a good Scrum team will be constantly looking for improvement opportunities, the team should set aside a brief, dedicated period at the end of each sprint to deliberately reflect on how they are doing and to find ways to improve. This occurs during the sprint retrospective.
So, what exactly the Sprint Retrospective is? The Sprint Retrospective is an event marking the closing of a Sprint, time-boxed to 3 hours or less. The event serves for the Scrum Team to inspect the Sprint that is ending and establish the way of working for the next Sprint.
The whole Scrum team attends the retrospective meeting, where they inspect how the iteration (sprint) has been done, and decide what and how they want to adapt their processes to improve. The actions coming out of a retrospective are communicated and done in the next iteration. That makes retrospectives an effective way to do the short cycled improvement.
The event covers all aspects of the work, i.e. release suitability of the product, technology, social aspects, the Scrum process, development practices, collaboration, product quality, etc. The event is basically about establishing what went well, where there is room for improvement and what experiments might be usefully conducted in order to learn and build a better product. As part of continuous improvement, the Scrum Team agrees on preservations, adjustments, experiments and improvements for the next Sprint.
The goal of the retrospective is for the team members to discuss among themselves about how the work went during the last sprint so that better ways can be found to meet the product's goals. This means the team should talk about its internal processes as well. Items for discussion might be:
- Can we improve our daily scrum meetings?
- Do we need to change any of the rules we are operating under?
- Is our communication with the Product Owner and stakeholders adequate?
- Are all stakeholders aware of our progress?
It is important to learn of and solve problems as they occur. It is an ongoing process of improvement from sprint to sprint. Once the product is completed, it is too late to find out how it could have been done in a better way. The product may have been completed, but most likely it came in late and over budget.
There are many variations on the format of the Sprint Retrospective. Usually (but of course not always as it is not mandatory) the Scrum Master is leading this event. The Scrum Master can facilitate the Sprint Retrospective meeting by asking everyone to just shout out ideas during the Scrum. The Scrum Master can go around the room asking each person to identify any one thing to start, stop or continue. Or, for example, he or she can tell everyone to focus on identifying something to stop this time because not much attention has been paid to things to stop in recent retrospectives.
Below is one of the most often strategy for the Scrum Master (or for others) to conduct the Sprint Retrospective:
1 - Set the stage – Set the goal; Give people time to “arrive” and get into the right mood
2 - Gather data – Help everyone remember; Create a shared pool of information (everybody sees the world differently)
3 - Generate insight – Why did things happen the way they did?; Identify patterns; See the big picture
4 - Decide what to do – Pick a few issues to work on and create concrete action plans of how you’ll address them
5 - Close the retrospective – Clarify follow-up; Appreciations; Clear end; How could the retrospectives improve?
Anyway, the role of Scrum Master in the Sprint Retrospective is to facilitate the team’s search for improvements. In other words, a Scrum Master can be considered as a facilitator for a team.
Regarding other roles, the Sprint Retrospective is an event for the entire Scrum Team, not just for the Scrum Master. The Product Owner and members of the Development Team plays a significant role in the Sprint, therefore there are certain things the Product Owner and the Development Team can inspect and adapt that will help the implementation of Scrum.
The output of the Sprint Retrospective should be "actual" improvements that are highly transparent and visible to everyone. That's different to whatever special tasks may go on the board or a more stringent Definition of Done agreed by the team. There can be reasons for keeping such artifacts private, and for restricting the transparency that is afforded to other stakeholders to the actuals.
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