Scrum: Retrospective

Posted on 2017-05-05 by

RETROThe Scrum Retrospective is the closing ritual of a Sprint. This is the moment for the team to reflect on the past Sprint. For good collaboration and productivity of the team it is important to take time to improve these things. By letting the team come up with their own action points of improvement, you’re ensured that they’ll find them important and will implement them. There are many ways to implement the Retrospective. In this blog I’ll describe a way I developed and tested in practice with my team. I’ll describe the method in detail and present alternatives on some points.

Important to the Scrum Retrospective is to provide space for all team members to express themselves and to express the things they are occupied with. To this end, a safe environment must be created, but also literally the space and time for anyone to have their say. First, I’ll outline some important preconditions. By setting these, you’ll have a good foundation. This makes the execution go more smoothly. Only a good conversation leader is still necessary to guide everything.

The program for this Retrospective consists of a relatively short individual part and the rest is collective. The solo part is done in silence first. This way everyone can first think for themselves how the Sprint has progressed and what he (and she) considers important for the Retro. The common part is to understand each other’s views and experiences and then jointly come to action points that everyone can commit to.

Suppose you’ll have 1 hour, that is 60 minutes, for the Retro, then the program can be laid out as follows. If you have another timebox, you can of course change the program accordingly. There are in total five rounds. Somebody can monitor the timebox of the rounds with a timer.

Set the stage: grading

In order to get everyone in an active and open attitude, each team member gives a rating for the last sprint. This is also called team happiness. This can be useful to compare different Sprints and to monitor progress in the experience. In addition to a number, another scale may be used, such as five stars or bad, moderate, sufficient, good, excellent. If a grade feels too much like reporting, then you can also ask for a single word to describe the Sprint. The latter also promotes creativity.

Gather data: argumenting

Next, everyone writes his reasons for his grade on post-its. These are observations and can be both positive and negative. It is useful to use different colors of post-its for positive and negative observations. Take 10 minutes for this. Only if everyone is done earlier you could stop earlier.
It’s important to do this individually and in silence. This way, the team members don’t influence each other. During this round everyone has the maximum freedom to express themselves on post-its. Next, everyone orders his post-its in order of importance. The most important one is on top. Both positive and negative are stacked together.

Generate insights: discussing themes

In this round everyone stands up for an active attitude. They all stand around a blackboard, flip over or a glass wall. At least it has to be surface on which post-its can be stuck. Everyone can start a new theme in turn. It goes like this. The first team member hangs up his most important post-it. He explains this at the same time. Anyone may ask questions to clarify the arguments, observations, experience, problem, cause or issue. After that, everyone can stick a post-it that belongs to the same theme, next to it and read it and, if necessary, clarify it. This will continue until everyone has hung his post-its on this first theme. Then another team member may hang his most important (from the remaining post-its) as the second theme. The rest of the process goes the same as with the first theme. Then another one can start a third theme. This will continue until everyone’s post-its are finished or the timebox has expired. A timebox of 20 minute is appropriate. You may choose to let everybody stick and read their remaining post-its after the expiration of the timebox. However, they are not discussed further in detail.

Sometimes it can be difficult to determine whether a new post-it belongs to the same theme or that it is actually a new theme. Usually this becomes apparent after there are hanging multiple post-its related to a theme. Then you can decide to split the theme. Let this happen dynamically and don’t be too rigid about it. Grouping by topic are only required to determine the topics to be discussed in the next round.

At the end of this round, all post-its with observations are grouped by theme. Based on the number of notes per subject, it is clear how important it is. As a team, you’ll choose the most important or most important two to take to the next round. This also depends on whether two subjects have about the same number of notes or that a subject jumps out.

You could also choose to determine the priority of the subjects by giving each team member a number of votes and holding a ballot. I ain’t in favor of this, because this way the team members can influence each other. My statement is simple, if someone has not written a note about a subject, he doesn’t deem that topic important enough. With a voting round, everyone can influence or convince each other to choose a topic.

Decide what to do: form action points

In this final round we’ll become concrete. We are going to formulate action points. These must be formulated SMART. These are agreements with the team that team members can hold each other to. Take 30 minutes for this round.

For this round we will sit again at the meeting table. We will discuss the most important 1 to 3 themes to formulate up to 3 action points for them. Three is indeed a proven number to work on in the next sprint (and afterwards!). Too much will lead to loss of focus. It’s important to formulate these action points concrete and SMART, and especially discuss the boundaries of the agreements to make them clear to everyone.

Close the Retrospective: wrapping up

Thank everyone for their contribution and ask for a quick review of this format. With this last feedback, the Retro itself can be improved.


Hopefully, you will find this blog post useful and will put this whole format or partly into practice. I would like to hear your experiences.

About Sander Meinema

Sander is a Software Engineer and Scrum Master at Luminis. He likes to build something useful, but also to facilitate a productive environment for the team. With a background in mathematics he has strong analytical skills which he can not only apply to code, but also to smooth processes.

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