The simple 7-step guide for awesome Retrospectives 🙌

May 9, 2023 | Scrum, Scrum Master

three persons sitting on the stairs talking with each other

Retrospectives often end up as “letting off steam” or “endlessly discussing problems” events. That’s not helpful. Retros should help a team continuously improve! They should feel positive and have impact 🚀

Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The Sprint Retrospective is the Scrum event in which you help the team continuously improve. The Scrum Master guides the team to uncover better ways of working and remove impediments.

I put my experience with countless Scrum teams into a simple 7-step guide for effective Retrospectives. It’s the backbone I’ve been using for years.

My main focus for retros is to keep them positive, focused and actionable. This agenda helps me do that. Here are the 7 steps I almost always go through during Retrospectives:

1. Review action items of your LAST retro

What did you set out to improve or try out in your last retro? Did you actually do it? Did it move the needle? Get some accountability and continuation into your continuous improvement!

2. Fight the recency effect 

We remember yesterday better than two weeks ago. Help the team remember the events from earlier in the sprint as well. Maybe you even collected impediments during the sprint already.

3. Focus on the most pressing issue 

Don’t get distracted! Dot-vote on the most pressing issue. I like to give everybody 3 dots to distribute as they see fit.

4. Generate ideas and experiments 

Brainstorm openly on what could improve the issue. It’s okay if you don’t know whether it will work – experiments are fine!

5. Focus on the 1-3 best improvement ideas

Dot-vote. Narrow it down to the most promising ideas. Again I give everybody 3 dots to freely distribute.

6. Generate actionable steps 

Up to now we only talked about lofty ideas. Let’s make it actionable! Be very specific. It’s okay, if it’s only a small thing. What do you want to do next sprint to improve?

7. Focus on 1-3 specific action items 

Dot-vote to get the 1-3 specific items you will implement next sprint. DON’T DO MORE! You will have enough other stuff to do. The action items might look tiny, but the cumulative impact over time will be tremendous.

In summary, focus on a few small & actionable improvements and track them. That creates positive Retrospectives that actually have an impact.

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