The Importance of the Sprint Retrospective

As a project manager and a ScrumMaster, one of the most important meetings is the Sprint Retrospective, or the “Lessons Learned” meeting.  It still surprises me how many people discount the importance of this meeting, but it is especially critical in the Scrum framework as a part of empirical process control upon which Scrum is based.

 

The three pillars of Scrum are transparency, inspection, and adaptation.  In Scrum, an empirical process is implemented where progress is based on observation and experimentation instead of detailed, upfront planning and defined processes.  The Sprint Retrospective heavily relies on these three pillars in order to make progress and help the Development Team improve how they deliver projects.  So let’s dig more into the Sprint Retrospective as it relates to the three pillars of Scrum:

 

Transparency:  During the Sprint Retrospective, the Scrum team, including the Product Owner, ScrumMaster, Development Team members, and even the customer, get together and discuss what went well, what was learned, what needs to be improved, and what is still challenging or puzzling to the team.  One of the five core Scrum values is openness.  This value is key when it comes to the Sprint Retrospective, because Scrum team members need to be open about the work performed, including the quality of the work and the challenges that they faced when performing the work.

 

Inspection:  The purpose of the Sprint Retrospective is for the team to analyze their own processes – how well they did, and to identify improvement opportunities to address for the next sprint.  Technically, the Scrum team should be doing this throughout the course of the sprint, not just waiting for the Sprint Retrospective to analyze their own process and identify improvement opportunities.

 

Adaptation:  Identifying improvement opportunities doesn’t hold any value unless they are acted upon.  An essential output of the Sprint Retrospective is the action plan, created by the Scrum team to address those improvement opportunities – how and what to improve for the next sprint.  More importantly, the action plan needs to be implemented after it is created.  To that point, people should be assigned action items as part of the action plan, and metrics should be defined to track how effective those action items have been to address identified improvement opportunities.

 

I have seen so many project teams “go through the motions” of having a “Lessons Learned” or “Sprint Retrospective” meeting.  But why waste everyone’s time if the team won’t act on the feedback received during that meeting, and improve the team’s performance based on that feedback for the next sprint?  Instead of capturing the feedback in a PowerPoint presentation and allowing it to gather dust on a shared drive, use that feedback for the improvement and betterment of the Scrum team as a whole, and you will be surprised how your Scrum team’s quality, efficiency, and productivity increases.

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