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Breathing New Life Into The Sprint Retrospective Meetings – Part 1

By Expert Author: mrugesh panchal

Sprint retrospective meetings, important “ceremonies” in the scrum process, are powerful mechanisms which allow the scrum team to reflect upon the prior sprints, and share feedback for improving future sprints. Whenever a scrum project is planned and executed, it is generally observed that in the initial stages the team remains very enthusiastic and collaborates active to participate in and uphold the scrum process. However, as the project starts extending itself over numerous sprints, the team starts losing its focus and concentration levels. The excitement and collaborative nature of the team members seen in the early stages of the project start receding and apathy sets in, prompting the team to function as mechanical tools and development cogs in the production machinery. Gone is the fervor which is so very essential if the sprint velocity is to improve with time. Scrum advocates adaption and improvement. Activities in scrum should better themselves as the project proceeds, and if this fails to happen, it is not a good sign for scrum. The success of a scrum project depends a lot upon the attitude of the product owner, and how the scrum master facilitates the entire process. These individuals should keep a wary eye and be on the lookout for signs which indicate stagnation in the team performance.

It is worth thinking about new way of doing things in scrum if the project is to be rejuvenated and new life is to be breathed into the project.

Planning for the retrospective

Current practice
At the end of the sprint iteration, the scrum master sends invitations to all team members for attending the retrospective. During the meeting, the scrum master initiates the proceedings by asking the team to clarify the three fundamental aspects which are so important and need to be essentially discussed at all costs during the retrospective:
• What worked well in the sprint (Activity to be promoted and continued in the next sprint)
• What should be stopped (Harmful practices and habits to be avoided in the next sprint)
• What can be improved upon or introduced as new (New suggestions from the team and learning from the lessons learnt in prior sprints)

• The sprint retrospective is held after the sprint review meeting, after a particular sprint finishes. It should offer an opportunity for the team members to discuss freely about their experiences during the sprint and how they tackled the technical issues faced by them. The meeting should function as a forum and allow a free flow of new ideas and thoughts, and above all it should be fun-filled with each member raring to speak and discuss his or her part played during the sprinting process. The team should feel motivated and concerned.
• It is important that the retrospectives be linked together and not exist as individual and independent ceremonies or events. The findings and call-to-actions of retrospectives should be carry-forwarded to future retrospectives so a proper analysis can be carried out as to what is working well and what should be prevented. The self-correction and learning process which is so important in scrum can only continue if the lessons learnt can be made available in all future retrospectives.

• Set up a simple but effective agenda involving the following aspects:

o Availing individual feedback from the team members
o Invite group feedback for common issues faced by the team
o Identifying important work priorities
o Discuss top priority topics
o Plan proper and effective call-to-actions
• Invite suggestions for making the daily scrum meetings (daily sprint meetings), or the daily stand ups, more interesting and goal oriented.

The team can also use anonymous methods of volunteering suggestions and suggesting future call-to-actions for controversial or sensitive topics. In case of disjointed teams, web based tools and utilities can be used to improve participation levels.

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