Agile retrospectives allow empowered teams to identify meaningful improvements to the way they carry out their work. They are a core part of the Scrum framework, occurring at the end of each sprint, and are a common element in Kanban and other agile approaches. Agile retrospectives are usually facilitated by a Scrum Master or agile coach, and may follow one of dozens of different formats. Of all the ways of running good retrospectives, the formats are a variation on the following essential structure:
- Discovery. The current situation is revealed and understood by the whole team. This may involve a discussion on things that have gone well or badly, and covers a wide range of topics from technical practices to personal relationships. The output of these discussions may then be organised or themed so that attention can be paid to the most relevant issues.
- Options. Having gained a clear understanding of the areas that need to be improved, potential solutions will be considered. The facilitator is likely to play an active role in drawing out as many ideas as possible, to explore beyond the obvious answers that emerge in the first few minutes.
- Actions. With all of the options available, the conversation now turns to identifying a small number of actionable and committed improvements that the team will put into practice. It is good practice to limit the committed actions to one or two small, realistic changes that will provide some tangible benefit.
Agile retrospectives represent an investment of time and effort in a particular team of people, with the goal of increasing the performance of that team. They are built on the premise that an empowered team, motivated to succeed can reach high performance by making small, incremental changes. Over time, like compound interest in a savings account, the results can be highly rewarding. For this reason, retrospectives are most effective for long-term development of stable teams that are well supported by the organisation.