The Scrum Retrospective Meeting | David Tzemach

Many teams work hard to accomplish a common goal, the problem begins once they cannot find a way to keep improving. To help the team raise their upper boundary we must promote and drive continuous improvement.

In the Scrum framework, teams achieve this goal by using the "retrospective" meeting at the end of each sprint. The goal of this meeting is to help make process improvements, rather than just work harder within their current limitations.


The Purpose Of The Agile Retrospective

The retrospective meeting has been around since the beginning. It is one of the core principles described in the Agile manifesto "At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly." The retrospective meeting is the platform that allows the team to discuss and understand how they can improve the current process and increase the effectiveness of their work.


In addition, the retrospective meeting allows the team to achieve additional goals:

  • It creates a blameless space for team members to share their valuable feedback.

  • Promotes self-organization and a sense of ownership.

  • Determines new ways to improve the process.

  • Identifies system constraints and waste.

  • Provides a clear definition of impediments, allowing the team to create a mitigation plan and monitor progress.

  • Shows what does work, so the team can keep using good methods.



The Retrospective as a Fountain of Shared Knowledge

The retrospective meeting is one of the most important meetings in the Scrum framework. It allows Scrum teams to raise and share any impediments to their ability to flourish and improve. The information the team shares internally can be extremely valuable because it reveals what holds the team back. The feedback could include things like: a Product Owner delivers poor-quality stories; external stakeholders interfere in team decisions; or a lack of technical skills that do not allow the team to become "cross-functional."


The information shared is extremely important for the team, but the retrospective meeting has wider implications as well. One simple way to connect the different teams is for one person in the organization to attend all sprint retrospectives, and act as a coordinator who summarizes the main issues and success stories that apply to all the teams. If you decide to follow this path, you need to ensure that the following guidelines are applied:

  • They must be respected (or have authority) enough to take real action that can promote change.

  • They should have the knowledge and experience to separate the important issues relevant to all teams and filter out items that are less relevant.

  • They must be trusted by the teams, who need to agree to add them to the team retrospectives.

  • They should not by any means interfere in the team dynamic throughout the meeting.

Another more scalable alternative is that each Scrum Master comes to a meeting made up of all other SMs of the organization, and shares the results of the team retrospective. The biggest advantage here is that we can do a retrospective on other retrospectives and prioritize the main impediments that have the most impact on the teams, the organization, and the process.


The last alternative is that for each team to share the sprint retrospective report with other teams. I don't recommend using this. Throughout the years I have learned that people will not read these reports, and less, act on them.



Who Should Participate in Team Retrospectives?

Although there are many opinions about who should participate in team retrospectives, I believe the whole Scrum team, and any other stakeholder that the team invites, should participate. It is important to understand that each of the three Scrum roles can contribute to the meeting:


Product owner

The PO is part of the Scrum team. He has the same commitment and common goal as the team (just with different areas of responsibility). Therefore, the Product Owner must attend this meeting along with the rest of the team.


Scrum Master

  • Promotes team conversations and identification of the topics for the retrospective.

  • The facilitator and moderator of the meeting.

  • Ensures all team members feel safe to share their insights.

  • Suggests new techniques and ideas for running the meeting.

  • Records, manages and monitors the status of impediments raised in the meeting.


Development team

  • The driving force of this meeting.

  • Propose improvement ideas.

  • Propose methods to mitigate impediments.

  • Prioritize action items raised as part of the meeting.