The dictionary meaning of Retrospective is “contemplation of the past events”, i.e. revise and analyse the past.
Agile Retrospection is a ceremony performed at the end of every sprint to analyse, document and take actions to make the project and the process more transparent and productive. While Retrospection is very important to any project, it is also important to understand the boundaries created for the meeting team. While setting boundaries we should keep in mind that the freedom of speech of the team is not affected.
To understand the concept of Retrospection Meetings better let me introduce you to the basics of the meeting first –
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The Correct Time – Last day of the sprint is the ideal day to hold the meeting
The duration of the meeting – An ideal Retrospection Meeting should not be more than 20-25 minutes
Required Members- Scrum Master, Product Owner, Developers
The meeting generally starts with the common parameters of the team like velocity, user stories accomplished etc.Then each member of the team comes up with their opinions on –
What went well?
What went bad?
What should the team continue doing?
What should the team stop doing?
Points given by each member is noted in a spreadsheet by the Scrum Master, and at the end of the meeting, 3-4 main action items are selected and are used as inputs to work on in further sprints. In every retrospective, the team should look back at the action items from the previous meetings and ensure that the ones that have been worked upon are closed.
While in a new Agile team the members are hesitant to put forward their views openly, in an experienced Agile team it is easier to get the views easily and truly.
Having covered all this it is important to understand that sometimes Retrospection meetings are used by employees to cover their mistakes or throw blames at other team members. For e.g. if the work of one developer is dependent on the work of another developer, there might occur a conflict of time or ideas between the two. Similarly, one developer's work might cause an issue in an existent piece of code written by someone else. These conflicts are often pointed at by developers during the retrospect and thus a healthy meeting turns into an introspection of each other’s work in the presence of the whole team and hampers the spirit of Agile. The team participating in the Agile Ceremonies should be trained and coached well to understand the practices advised in Agile and the reason behind them.
Many Scrum Masters in today's day come across situations when differences occur between team members which are not good for the team to perform with complete dedication. In such situations, it is the duty of the Scrum Master to understand the differences and solve as quickly as possible to avoid internal conflicts which may eventually lead to bad team performance or delayed commitments.
To avoid such introspection and team differences, the Scrum Master should make sure that the team adheres to the below guidelines –
- Always check with the teammates for any issues and try to solve in a mature and professional manner
- Resolve opinion differences regarding technical issues with logics and backing data
- Also, before starting every sprint it is very important to understand each requirement from business perspective to avoid confusion
Also, it is a Scrum Master's duty to maintain a professional environment within the team and the Product Owner's duty to always clarify the business value of each backlog item so that the development team can follow the correct direction from sprint start.
There are also some free tools available online like IdeaBoardz, Fun Retro, Reflect, Pointing Poker, Scatter Scope etc.
Additionally, below-suggested guidelines for the meeting can help retrospect and come out to better conclusions as to what is best for the team :
- Each team member should contribute only 2-3 points most important according to their viewpoint
- When one team member is putting a point others should not contradict or speak in between
- Everyone should speak when asked to by Scrum Master
- If a conflict of opinion occurs between 2 team members then the same should be solved with only the concerned members and not to be put in retrospective
When a team follows pure Agile, the Retrospective is an important ritual for the team. This helps Continuous Integration and helps the team understand each other’s point of view. A Retrospect could also be accompanied by the achievements of the team in the sprint. The Scrum Master can incorporate the team’s success in the start of the meeting to set a good tone for the meeting.
Concluding, I can positively say that while good Retrospection can do wonders for the team, a bad one can break the team which is not good in the long run.