Project management & leadership | January 27, 2021

Retrospective. Expectations, mistakes, ideas for improvement

Retrospective is a process which depends on the identification of a situation which inhibits and stunts work. Find out how you can eliminate negative factors and how to implement reparative activities which will lead to better results.

Scrum Vs Kanban

Do you agree that every area of work (and daily life!) can be verified and that it is always possible to find something that we can improve upon? By working according to agile methodology, we know there are some ways to achieve higher levels of productivity, because employees feel like part of the organization and that they have a real impact for a change. This is enabled by means of a ‘retrospective’, which is a process which depends on the identification of a situation which inhibits and stunts work. Find out how you can eliminate negative factors and how to implement reparative activities which will lead to better results.

Retrospective in Scrum – what is it?

Referencing the Scrum Guide, a retrospective is a steady process of refinement, not an individual meeting organized during one Sprint. In practice it means that every time we notice a counterproductive approach to work or we identify wrong decisions, we can disrupt this conjuncture immediately. Because of that, we don’t need to wait for an official meeting at the end of a Sprint. Meetings like Daily Scrum or regular individual conversations with teammates are opportunities to pick up on any cases of dysfunction within the team.

Read also: Self-management is the future of management

What does a retrospective cover?

The scope of expectations of the so-called “retro” is quite wide. During a retrospective, it is possible to broach any issues related to:

  • The way meetings are run
  • The times at which meetings take place
  • The availability of members of a project team (Product Owner, Scrum Master, developers)
  • Cooperation with other stakeholders that are involved in product development
  • The tools of the trade (issues like a lack of tools, lack of accessibility, suggestions for using new tools)
  • Developing good practice, and one’s own intrinsic rules
  • Team integration
  • Thanks for work carried out

Retrospective – before you start

 What should be accomplished before a team retrospective? The points mentioned below are the main tasks of a Scrum Master; however, each member of the team is responsible for the totality of the retrospective.

  • Book up time.
  • Determine the exact time for the meeting and stick to it.
  • Prepare an agenda.
  • The Development Team should come to a retrospective with some specification of situations that are concerned with the Sprint which has just ended, or a period longer than the last Sprint. It would be helpful to point out some situations to which a person would like to refer.
  • Prepare some space for giving opinions.
  • In the office: If the team has the opportunity to meet in one place, things like interactive Scrum Boards or whiteboards, sheets and markers would certainly be helpful when it comes to carrying out a retrospective.
  • Online retrospective: during the pandemic, Development Teams are increasingly using tools which enable effective work. Whiteboard on Skype/Teams applications would be helpful for online meetings. There are also many more dedicated tools such as Miro, Funretro, TeamRetro, Sprint Boards or Retrium.

Proper retrospective – good practices

  • Start the meeting by loosening the atmosphere. Regardless of where you are working (online or on site), broaching a subject unrelated to work at the start is the right way to go about things. Focus on neutral subjects: sports, holiday plans, home renovations etc. Sometimes organizing a short game is a good idea.
  • Go through the points on the agenda, by paying attention to other team members so that everyone can offer an opinion. Make sure the people who are responsible for executing individual tasks do so on time. Reporting some actions, for instance using Jira, to trace progress, add comments and to complete new details, is optional.
  • Schedule time for a summary. A summary of the meeting is an important part of a retrospective. Acknowledge others for corporate work in each finished Sprint.
  • Put things into practice. After the team meeting, there is nothing left but to put things agreed at the retrospective in practice and keep people on their toes by monitoring their progress.

Who participates in the retrospective?

The Scrum Master and Product Owner attend the meeting based on the same principles as other members of the team. The Scrum Master has a particular function, because he is usually the person who leads the retrospective. It is also important for the team to learn independence, as well as be involved during the session, in an open way without any sense of embarrassment, sharing their perceptions after the last Sprint and suggesting their ideas.

Even if there is only one person who has a problem, it then becomes a problem for the whole team. That is why it is so important to think about ways of eliminating difficulties and improving the situation. The whole team should help with the prioritization of all points reported by voting on the most important ones.

Retrospective – avoid these mistakes

As a Scrum Master I focus on running the retrospective in an interesting and engaging way. However, it sometimes turns out that a retrospective can’t bring the expected results. What is the reason behind this? The most common retrospective mistakes are:

  • No time for a retrospective – it often equals a lack of a follow-up retrospective in the team/industry. It’s easy to postpone or cancel the retrospective because of tasks piling up. It is worth remembering that dedicating some time to a retrospective will lead to increased effectiveness in carrying out tasks and better clarity in organization.
  • Monotonous format – for a retrospective not to be considered a “necessary evil”, it is a good idea to make sure it takes place in an interesting and engaging format, for instance turning cameras on so that teammates can see each other, doing quizzes, having polls at the beginning of the meeting, voting for the best task and devoting some time to thank for work carried out altogether.
  • No visualization of statistics – a picture is worth a thousand words! The right visualization can help to engage participants, for instance a report from the last Sprint with information about the number of tasks completed vs not completed, the average number of points from the last Sprints or the amount which remains to be done.
  • Uncommitted team, silence at meetings – members of the Development Team are working towards collective success, which is why their involvement is essential.
  • A meeting dominated by one person – it may turn out that one person is especially active while others have no chance to say anything. The Scrum Master’s function is to make sure that everyone has a chance to participate actively in meetings.

Where can a retrospective be used?

  • Software development – the software development industry uses Agile methodology, like Scrum, successfully. A retrospective helps to overcome obstacles and improve cooperation in a team, thereby impacting on effectiveness.
  • Education – change management, made possible by a retrospective, is also a good option for schools. Retrospectives can be used in classrooms by giving teachers an opportunity to check the processed materials.
  • Production – retrospectives can be used in the automotive industry. Toyota is an example of an industrial concern that based their own production system (Toyota Production System) on the method of continued perfection, spawning Agile methodology which is used by brands and industries all over the world nowadays.
  • Household – Scrum, including retrospectives, can be used to organize daily duties and implement improvements.


Thanks to retrospectives, the team gets to know each other better, tries out new solutions, and often learns from their own mistakes. A retrospective boosts creativity which helps to solve a lot of problems inside the team. The fact that deploying some changes can take more than one Sprint is worth remembering, and that’s why one must be patient while waiting for the results. It is important that the team is conscious of the power of teamwork and reports any difficulties encountered along the way.

Contact me on LinkedIn

The Scrum Master at Inetum. In the IT industry from 2015. He has experience in the area of insurance, banking and public sector projects. Obtained certificates: Professional Scrum Master, Agile PM, Prince2, ITIL i ISTQB. In private life, he is involved in sports activities, such as cycling, football and volleyball.

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