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What is a Retrospective?

What exactly is a retrospective? Who takes part and what happens? All on one handy page. Original article by Corinna Baldauf, referencing the 5 phases described by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen.

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Content of the 1-Pager:

What is a Retrospective?
A retrospective is an opportunity to learn and improve. It is time set aside – outside of day-to-day routine – to reflect on past events and behaviors. In its simplest form the team reflects on 3 questions:

  • What did we do well?
  • What did we do poorly?
  • What will we do differently next time to improve?

In Scrum, retrospectives are short and done often (e.g. 1h for a 2-week sprint). In Kanban there’s a variety of ways to “schedule” retrospectives.

Who takes part?
“The team” whoever that includes in your context. In Scrum it’s at least the dev team & sometimes the PO. The SM facilitates. If you have a specific topic that includes / affects people from outside the team invite them to work on a joint solution.

What happens?
In its simplest form, a bunch of people

  • meet
  • talk about stuff and
  • agree on some actions (that will hopefully improve the situation)

Usually retrospectives are more sophisticated than that and follow the 5 phases (see image on
the left) suggested in the book “Agile Retrospec-tives”.

You can support each phase with activities to spark ideas and interaction (see plans-for-retro-spectives.com for examples).

What is a retrospective NOT?

  1. A blame game – It’s not about assigning blame. Concentrate on what you will do in the future.
  2. Just another meeting in which talk is cheap but no change follows – If the retrospectives don’t produce concrete plans of actions or no one carries them out afterwards, retrospectives are a waste of time.

But yours will be successful for sure! Give it a try!

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