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What is a Sprint Retrospective & How Do You Run One?

· Ideation

If you're like most people, you've probably heard the term "retrospective" but never really stopped to ask what it means. A retrospective, simply put, is a meeting where your team gets together to reflect on what's been accomplished and identify lessons learned.

Retrospectives are often run at the end of a project or iteration, but they can also be run more regularly, such as every month or quarter. They're an important way to ensure that your team is constantly getting better and learning from their mistakes.

In this post, we'll explain what retrospectives are and how to run them effectively.

What is a Sprint Retrospective & How Do You Run One

What is a retrospective?

A retrospective is a meeting that is typically held at the end of a sprint in order to reflect on what has gone well and what could be improved. It is an opportunity for the team to identify areas of improvement and brainstorm solutions. The retrospective can also be used to celebrate successes and learn from past mistakes.

Retrospectives can be conducted in a variety of ways, but they all typically involve some form of brainstorming and sharing of ideas. The goal is to identify ways to improve the team's process and to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

There are a few different formats that can be used for retrospectives, but the most important thing is that the team feels comfortable with the format and that it allows for honest and open dialogue. Some common retrospective formats include:

  • Brainstorming: The team brainstormed ideas and then voted on the ideas using dot stickers. The top-voted ideas were then discussed in more detail.
  • Fishbone Diagram: The team listed out all of the possible causes for a particular issue on a whiteboard. They then brainstormed solutions for each of the root causes.
  • SWOT Analysis: The team listed out the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of the team or project. They then brainstormed solutions for each of the items on the list.

The format of the retrospective should be based on what will work best for the team. The important thing is that the team takes the time to reflect on their work and identify areas for improvement.

What is a Sprint Retrospective & How Do You Run One

Why is retrospective a crucial tool for teams?

Retrospective is a crucial tool for teams because it allows them to reflect on what went well and what didn't go well during a sprint or project. This reflection can help teams learn from their mistakes and make improvements for future sprints or projects.

Retrospective also allows teams to identify any process or communication issues that need to be addressed. Without retrospective, teams would not be able to learn from their past experiences and would likely make the same mistakes over again.

There are many benefits to conducting a retrospective, but some of the most important ones include:

  • It helps teams to identify and reflect on their successes and failures.
  • It allows teams to identify areas where they can improve.
  • It helps teams to stay focused and motivated.
  • It can help prevent team members from becoming bogged down in their work.
  • It can help improve communication and collaboration within a team.

How to do a sprint retrospective in five simple steps

Sprint retrospectives are an important part of the agile process, allowing teams to reflect on their work and identify areas for improvement. Here are five simple steps to follow when conducting a sprint retrospective:

Use Rolljak’s free templates

When doing a retrospective, there are three main goals: to identify what’s going well, what needs improvement, and what action items need to be taken.

Ideally, you want to keep your retrospective focused and action-oriented. That’s why we recommend using Rolljak’s free templates.

With the Rolljak sprint retro templates, you can quickly and easily jot down your thoughts, organize them, and come up with a plan of action.


Set the stage

In any retrospective, setting the stage is very important. This means creating an environment where honest, open discussion can take place.

To do this, it is important to establish ground rules. For example, participants should be encouraged to speak up and share their opinions.

The focus should be on finding solutions, not placing blame. And finally, all comments should be respectful. With these guidelines in place, the team can begin to identify areas where they need to improve.

By taking a step back and looking at their past performance, they can develop a plan for moving forward and ensuring future success.

Gather data

Gathering data is another step when doing a retrospective. This data can come from a variety of sources, including your project management tool, your team's weekly stand-ups, and any feedback channels you have set up.

Once you have this data, you can start to look for patterns. Are there certain times of the day or week when your team is most productive? Are there certain types of tasks that seem to take longer than others?

By identifying these patterns, you can start to make changes that will improve your team's efficiency and effectiveness.

Generate insights

Insight generation is a very important part of a retrospective. One way to generate insights is to use a "fishbone" diagram. This tool helps teams to identify the root causes of problems and brainstorm potential solutions.

To use a fishbone diagram, team members first list the problem they want to solve. They then brainstorm all of the potential causes of the problem and organize them into categories.

Once all of the possible causes have been identified, the team can begin to identify which ones are the most likely root causes. From there, they can develop actionable plans to address the underlying issues.

Decide what to do

One of the key steps in any retrospective is deciding what to do. This can be a difficult task, as it requires looking at the past and trying to identify areas that need improvement. However, there are a few tips that can help.

First, start by looking at what went well. This can be a valuable exercise, as it can help to identify processes or practices that are worth repeating.

Next, look at what didn't go well. Try to be objective and identify specific areas that need improvement. Finally, brainstorm some potential solutions.

Once you have a list of potential solutions, take some time to discuss them as a team. By following these steps, you can ensure that your retrospective is productive and leads to tangible improvements.

What is a Sprint Retrospective & How Do You Run One


Barriers to a successful retrospective

There are a few potential barriers to a successful retrospective:

Lack of Preparation

One of the biggest barriers to a successful retrospective is a lack of preparation. If team members do not know what the retrospective is for or what is expected of them, it will be very difficult to get anything productive out of the meeting. It is important to send out an agenda or other materials in advance so that everyone knows what the meeting will entail.

Lack of Participation

Another barrier to a successful retrospective is a lack of participation from team members. If people are not willing to share their thoughts and ideas, it will be very difficult to identify areas for improvement. It is important to create an environment where people feel comfortable speaking up and sharing their ideas.

Lack of Actionable Items

The third barrier to a successful retrospective is a lack of actionable items. If the team does not identify any specific areas that need improvement, it will be very difficult to make any real progress. It is important to make sure that the team focuses on identifying concrete steps that can be taken to improve the way they work together.


Questions to ask during a retrospective

One of the most important parts of a successful retrospective is asking the right questions. The questions you ask should prompt thoughtful reflection and honest feedback. They should also be specific enough that they can lead to tangible improvements for the next project.

With that in mind, here are four essential questions your team should ask (and answer) during your next retrospective.

1. What Went Well?

This is probably the easiest question to answer but it is still an important one. It is important to start off on a positive note and focus on the successes of the project before moving on to areas of improvement.

This will help build team morale and confidence going into the next project. Additionally, thinking about what went well will help identify which processes or methods were successful and should be repeated in future projects.

2. What Didn’t Go Well?

This question can be difficult to answer but it is important to think about what went wrong and why it went wrong. This can help prevent similar problems from happening in future projects.

It is also important to encourage honest feedback during this part of the discussion so that team members feel comfortable speaking up about areas of improvement.

3. What Could We Improve?

Once you have identified what went well and what didn’t go well, it’s time to start thinking about ways to improve for future projects. This could mean anything from changing the way certain tasks are completed to altering deadlines or timelines.

The important thing is that the team comes up with actionable items that can lead to tangible improvements in future projects.

4. What Still Needs to Be Done?

This question applies more to long-term projects but it can still be useful for shorter projects as well.

Sometimes there are tasks that need to be completed but weren’t able to be finished during the project timeline. This question can help identify those unfinished tasks and make sure they get completed either by the original team or by another team.


Tips for mastering your next retrospective

Here are three tips to help you master your next retrospective.

Establish ground rules.

Before you get started, it's important to set some ground rules. This will ensure that everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and that the discussion stays focused. Some helpful ground rules to consider are: no judgment, no criticism, and confidentiality.

Create a safe space.

A safe space is crucial for an effective retrospective. This is a space where everyone can feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and experiences without fear of judgment or criticism. To create a safe space, make sure to establish ground rules (see tip #1) and avoid blame-based language.

Be inclusive.

In order to get the most out of your retrospective, it's important to include as many people as possible in the conversation. This means soliciting feedback from everyone on the team, not just the project manager or team leader. The more perspectives you have, the more likely you are to identify areas for improvement.


The sprint retrospective is an essential part of the scrum process, providing a time for reflection and continuous improvement. When done correctly, a sprint retrospective can help a team to identify areas of improvement and develop actionable plans for making changes.

The key to running a successful sprint retrospective is to ensure that all team members feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. This can be accomplished by creating an open and safe environment, setting clear goals for the retrospective, and involving everyone in the discussion.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your sprint retrospective is productive and beneficial for your team.