Project management involves iterative and incremental approaches at the product and project delivery levels. It is based on twelve agile principles or values concerning customer and employee satisfaction through the most commonly used scrum framework. An agile retrospective is part of an improvement procedure, explained in detail below.

What is an Agile Retrospective?

The agile retrospective is performed on the completion of the project and involves gathering the involved members to put forward ideas for future optimization. The discussion is focussed on positive and negative happenings combined with possibilities for improvement.

Why are Agile Retrospectives Important?

The agile Manifesto commands us to reflect on the past and learn from it regularly. It saves time by not repeating the mistakes, irrespective of their size. Ensuring increased productivity compared to the last performance involves the participation of each member, disregarding their post.

Agile retrospective holds importance in stating the practice and significance of adaptability to changes. With most organizations and teams fearing change, agile encourages review and optimization with action.

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What is the Value of a Retrospective?

Retrospective is the time to analyze the processes involved in accomplishing a specific task. It signifies the team's responsibility as they examine their shortcomings and strengths. Based on this, the team's seriousness towards work and improvement of themselves and the organization is determined. The retrospective is an excellent opportunity to show that individuals and groups strive for growth and improvement. They are not stagnant; they have an open mind to accept their defects and faults and hold the courage to work on them.

Origins and Popularization of the Agile Retrospective

The credit for retrospective alone and agile retrospective goes to Cockburn, Kerth, Derby, and Diana. Cockburn introduced the concept of reflection on the actions after completing the task. He named it 'reflection workshop' in his book Surviving Object-Oriented Projects. It was used as the base by an agility expert Norman L. Kerth. His contribution in the form of the book 'Project Retrospective: A Handbook for Team Reviews' popularized the concept to the extent that it ended up as an Agile retrospective by Derby and Diana. In 2006, they published a book called 'Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great' and introduced the world to utilizing retrospectives in organizations.

What Kind of Team Should Do Retrospectives?

The retrospective is not a method for a particular team; instead, it is universal. Irrespective of the type of organization, project, methods, and industry, it finds broad applicability. Looking for faults and well-performed actions do not harm if combined with an adaptable mentality.

What Do Teams Discuss in Agile Retrospective Meetings?

In such meetings, the teams focus on productive and unproductive collaborations, methodologies, processes, unrealistic expectations, their judgment power and their decision-making approach. It also assists in devising the solution to combat the problems. Discussing conferences, workshops, backlog details, specifications, or forming an idea to develop the skills and time for reorganization can be used as solutions.

What are the Benefits of Retrospectives?

The advantages of retrospectives are:

  • Easily predict the potential issues that can be encountered in future
  • Improving communication, interaction, trust and hence productivity
  • Inculcating team spirit
  • Gathering different skilled and innovative people to find solutions to problems
  • Prevention of faults and mishappenings
  • Hope for improved results

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Types of Agile Retrospective Workflows and Techniques

A lack of interest and participation of members accompanies the repetitive method of conducting agile retrospectives. New strategies bring interaction and the will to participate. Here are the few methods to incorporate in agile retrospectives

4 L's

Understand the pros and cons faced by asking the members to enlist opportunities or decisions they Longed, Lacked, Learned and Liked.

Dot Voting

Introduce dot voting to understand the priorities of members. They will be introduced to the objectives and discussion topics. The members will vote on the important topics which solely concern them.

Lean Coffee

Using dot voting gives the discussion in control of participating members. They bring the ideas which concern them, prioritize them through dot voting and then discuss them according to the voting results.

One Word

A great approach is to start the meeting slowly and let everyone adjust. Participants are asked to put forward their emotions about the sprint through one word. Not requiring much talking, it is a deep expression of people's perspectives.

Past Two Months Map

It requires research and should be informed beforehand to avoid relying on the memory of members. Participants must state the key points or events of the past two months of the sprint. It benefits by reminding others about multiple important situations.


It categorizes the sprint as a boat, risks as rocks and anchors as delays. The guiding motion is wind, and the aim is to reach the land. Expressing in such terms enhances creativity, participation and innovation.

Start, Stop, Continue

Here people are required to enlist actions or methods they would like to introduce, unproductivity which they would like to stop and productive processes they think should continue.

Question Cards

Participants are expected to draw a card among multiple ones that have questions on it. They have to honestly answer the question based on their point of view on the project.

How is a Retrospective Different From a Regular Team Meeting?

Regular team meetings do not necessarily reflect on the prior actions or a specific project. Agile retrospective intends to listen to everyone's outlook, build team spirit and communication, understand the strengths and shortcomings and find methods to overcome already faced challenges if posed in new projects. Team meetings may have different topics or objectives of discussion.

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What is the Relationship Between Agile and Retrospectives?

Agile is an approach intended to optimize the delivery of projects and products. It constitutes a set of principles and values that help organizations improve their performance. Retrospective in agile enhances the approach by correcting mistakes and avoiding faults. The retrospective also enables us to follow the agile methodologies with already shown strengths for better productivity.

What is the Difference Between Retrospectives and Post-mortems?

The most significant difference between the two is that post-mortem occurs after the end of the project. It sees the big picture of the project to have an overview. Retrospectives take place after sprint or scrum and involve the project team. It is concluded with actions to be taken in a new sprint or scrum, while post-mortems involve management and concludes with a risk assessment document.

Who Should Facilitate The Retrospective?

The most effective way to decide is to let every member facilitate the retrospective. Providing an opportunity to every member in subsequent meetings benefits by new ideas of retrospective conduction and increased interest. Scrum Masters can put forward their ideas and expertise and lead the meeting.

How Often Should We Have Retrospectives? What’s the Ideal Length?

The length of retrospectives relies on the length of the sprint. Besides, the sprint completion decides the suitable time for a retrospective. However, it can be organized biweekly, monthly or as frequently as possible. Generally, a fruitful discussion for half an hour or a biweekly retrospective of one and a half hours is enough to come up with ideas and conclusions.

What is an Action Plan, and How Do You Build It?

The action plan of the retrospective should contain multiple items for an effective and interesting meeting. Ensure that action items are time oriented, specific, relevant, measurable and achievable. The count of action items should be within the limit to give relevant conclusions according to the next sprint and does not require over-participation. Also, assign each action item to only one person.

What Mindset is Required to Run a Successful Retrospective?

A successful retrospective can be achieved by involving maximum participation, being innovative, creating a safe space that does not involve blame and leading to a solution to problems. Finding the method of its execution and building team spirit and trust are some other features that signify the successful conduction of retrospectives.

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Retrospectives are not a very old method to reflect on an organization's actions. Yet, they have proved their calibre by providing the best results and increasing productivity. Reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses helps properly utilize skills for high efficiency. Having the mindset to accept and bring change encourages individuals to grow and achieve success. Agile and Scrum Foundation certification Training teaches you about agile and scrum values and methodologies to be applied to the success of projects and teams. Sign-up now!