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Best Full Guide For The Perfect Agile Scrum Retrospective

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Effective collaboration is the cornerstone of any successful team. It fosters creativity, innovation, and productivity. One powerful tool that can enhance team collaboration is the retrospective. In this blog post, we will explore the 1best tips for conducting a retrospective with your scrum team, as well as free online tools that can help facilitate the process. We will also provide some icebreaker tips to make your retrospectives more engaging and effective.

Set the Stage

As a developer, I’ve found that setting the stage before starting a retrospective is as crucial as the retrospective itself. This phase lays the groundwork for a successful and productive meeting. Here are some key aspects based on my experience:

Before the retrospective, I usually spend time gathering data about our last sprint. This includes metrics, feedback from team members, and notes on any significant events. It’s not just about collecting statistics; it’s about understanding the team’s experience. Tools like Jira for tracking sprint progress and anonymous surveys for collecting team feedback have been helpful.

Establishing psychological safety is paramount. We ensure everyone knows that the retrospective is a blame-free zone where all opinions are valued. This sets the tone for open and honest discussions. Our facilitator often starts with a reminder that the goal is to improve as a team, not to point fingers.

A well-defined agenda sent out before the meeting helps everyone come prepared. It outlines the focus areas of the retrospective and allocates time for each segment. We use tools like Confluence to share and collaboratively edit the agenda.

The role of the facilitator is crucial. It doesn’t always have to be the Scrum Master; we sometimes rotate this role. The facilitator is responsible for guiding the discussion, ensuring everyone’s voice is heard, and keeping the session on track.

In our team, we have members working remotely. We make sure that the technology (like video conferencing tools) and the format of the retrospective are inclusive. Everyone should be able to participate equally, regardless of their location.

We often start with an icebreaker. It could be a simple question or a fun activity. This helps to lighten the mood and gets everyone engaged from the start. More on that later.

It’s important to review the action items from the last retrospective. This not only provides continuity but also holds us accountable for the commitments we made. It’s a way to track our progress as a team in addressing the issues we’ve identified.

We always start by reiterating ground rules – respect everyone’s opinion, focus on solutions, not problems, and ensure one person speaks at a time. This helps in maintaining a constructive and organized discussion.

Having a clear focus in retrospectives is vital. It brings clarity and direction to our discussions.. In my experience, the best way to determine the focus of a retrospective is to gather input from all team members before the meeting. We often use surveys or tools like Confluence to collect insights on what team members feel should be addressed. This not only helps in setting a focused agenda but also ensures everyone feels their concerns are being taken into account.

Setting the stage in this manner has consistently led to more focused, productive, and enjoyable retrospectives. It ensures that everyone is on the same page and is mentally prepared to reflect, discuss, and plan for improvement.

Use a Structured Format

In my role as a developer, I’ve found using a structured format like the “What went well, what didn’t go well, what can be improved” framework in retrospectives to be highly effective. Here’s how it has shaped my personal experience:

1. Balanced Reflection: This format has always helped my team and me to maintain a balanced view of our sprints. Celebrating our successes under “what went well” boosts team morale, while addressing our challenges under “what didn’t go well” keeps us grounded and focused on continuous improvement. This holistic approach ensures that we don’t overlook our achievements or ignore our areas for growth.

2. Promoting Openness and Honesty: The structure of this format encourages open and honest discussions. In our retrospectives, the “what didn’t go well” segment has often led to uncovering hidden issues, be it in our communication, processes, or technical areas. It creates a safe space for team members to voice concerns that might otherwise remain unspoken.

3. Focused on Solutions: The section on “what can be improved” is where we turn our insights into action. This part of the retrospective is particularly engaging, as it transforms our discussions into a brainstorming session for actionable solutions. We often leave the meeting with a clear set of goals and strategies for the next sprint.

4. Clear Actionable Outcomes: This format has consistently led to actionable outcomes for us. By clearly identifying what needs improvement, we can set specific, achievable goals. This process ensures that the insights we gain during the retrospective don’t just remain as discussions but translate into tangible actions.

5. Inclusive for All Team Members: I’ve noticed that this format allows every aspect of our team’s work to be discussed, which ensures that everyone feels included. Whether it’s a technical achievement or a process enhancement, each team member has the opportunity to contribute their experiences.

6. Easy to Facilitate and Participate: The clear structure of this format makes it easy for both the facilitator to guide the meeting and for the participants to engage. This is particularly helpful for those new to retrospectives, as the format is straightforward and easy to follow.

7. Adaptable and Flexible: Finally, the versatility of this format is a major plus. It adapts well to different team sizes, project types, and can be tailored to suit the unique dynamics of each team. We’ve even combined it with other techniques for more depth in our discussions.

Overall, the “What went well, what didn’t go well, what can be improved” framework has been a cornerstone in our retrospectives, helping us achieve a comprehensive, balanced, and action-oriented discussion. It’s a format that I’ve seen work effectively across different teams and projects.

Encourage Open and Honest Communication

Creating an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas is crucial for a successful retrospective. Encourage open and honest communication by actively listening to each team member, validating their opinions, and fostering a non-judgmental atmosphere.

Use Visual Aids

Incorporating visual aids into retrospectives has significantly enhanced the engagement and effectiveness of these sessions. Here’s how visual aids have made a difference in our retrospectives:

Enhanced Engagement: Using visual aids like whiteboards and sticky notes makes retrospectives more interactive and engaging. In our sessions, we often use a large whiteboard where team members add sticky notes under different categories like “To Improve,” “Went Well,” or “Action Items.” This visual representation of thoughts and ideas naturally encourages more participation and keeps the team engaged.

Better Organization of Thoughts: Visual aids help in organizing the discussion. We categorize our observations and ideas, which makes it easier to follow the flow of the retrospective. For example, grouping issues under specific themes on a whiteboard helps us see the bigger picture and understand the relationships between different points raised.

Memorable and Clear Takeaways: The use of visuals aids makes the retrospective outcomes more memorable. When we see our ideas and discussions visually represented, it helps in better retention of the information. This is particularly useful when reviewing the outcomes in future sessions or when actioning the identified improvements.

Facilitating Prioritization: Visual tools are great for prioritizing issues and action items. During our retrospectives, we often use dot voting with sticky notes, where each team member places a dot on the issues they feel are most important. This visual and interactive method simplifies the prioritization process and ensures a democratic approach.

Online Collaboration Tools for Remote Teams: In our remote sessions, we use online collaboration tools like Miro or Trello. These tools replicate the experience of using physical whiteboards and sticky notes, allowing remote team members to actively participate. They offer a shared space where everyone can contribute in real-time, making the retrospective inclusive for all members, regardless of their location.

Tracking Progress Over Time: Visual aids also help in tracking progress over time. By documenting the discussions and action items visually, we can easily refer back to them in future retrospectives to check on our progress and ensure that we are addressing the issues we identified.

Encouraging Creativity: Lastly, visual aids encourage creativity. The informal nature of drawing, writing on sticky notes, or using digital tools to represent ideas breaks the monotony of regular meetings and encourages team members to think more creatively.

Focus on Actionable Items

I’ve witnessed firsthand how focusing on actionable items during retrospectives can significantly improve the team’s performance and collaboration. Here’s how this approach has been beneficial:

Solution-Oriented Discussions: Retrospectives in our team aren’t just about identifying problems; they’re primarily focused on finding solutions. When we discuss issues, the next immediate step is brainstorming possible solutions. This shift from problem identification to solution generation keeps the team motivated and proactive.

Creating Actionable Plans: We always aim to leave retrospectives with a clear, actionable plan. Each identified issue is paired with specific actions that can be taken in the next sprint. This practice ensures that our discussions in retrospectives translate into tangible improvements in our work.

Encouraging Ownership and Accountability: For each action item, we assign a responsible team member. This helps in establishing accountability and ensures that the tasks are followed through. It’s not just about what needs to be done, but also about who will do it and by when. This clarity is crucial for driving improvement.

Prioritizing for Impact: In our retrospectives, we prioritize action items based on their potential impact and feasibility. This ensures that we focus our efforts on changes that will bring the most benefit to our team and project in the forthcoming sprint.

Continuous Improvement: This approach fosters a culture of continuous improvement. By focusing on actionable items and implementing them in subsequent sprints, we create a loop of constant enhancement in our processes and practices. It also helps in building a resilient and adaptive team.

Measuring Impact: We often review the outcomes of our previous action items in the next retrospective. This helps us in measuring the impact of our actions and understanding if they are moving us in the right direction.

Enhancing Team Collaboration: Focusing on actionable items has also improved our collaboration. When team members work together to find solutions and take actions, it enhances trust and cooperation within the team. It transforms the retrospective from a discussion forum into a collaborative problem-solving session.

Boosting Morale and Motivation: Seeing actual changes based on our discussions is highly motivating. It gives the team a sense of accomplishment and reinforces the value of the retrospective process.

Free Online Retrospective Tools


FunRetro (EasyRetro)

A versatile and user-friendly tool for conducting effective retrospectives with distributed teams.



Offers a variety of retrospective techniques and tools to help teams improve their agile processes.



A free retrospective and meeting app that encourages team engagement through reflection and discussion.


Metro Retro

Provides a collaborative workspace for teams to run retrospectives and brainstorming sessions with real-time interactions.

Rotate Facilitators

To keep the retrospectives fresh and engaging, consider rotating the role of the facilitator among team members. This not only gives everyone a chance to lead the retrospective but also brings different perspectives and approaches to the process.

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Start with an Icebreaker

Icebreakers can help set a positive and collaborative tone for the retrospective. Consider starting each retrospective with a fun and interactive icebreaker activity to energize the team and create a sense of camaraderie.

Best Icebreakers for starting a Retrospective

1. Two Truths and a Lie: Each team member presents three statements about themselves: two truths and one lie. The rest of the team then guesses which statement is the lie. This game is a fun way to learn more about each other and often leads to amusing revelations and stories.

2. The Desert Island Scenario: Ask each team member to share what three items they would take with them if they were stranded on a desert island and why. This icebreaker can lead to creative and humorous responses, fostering a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

3. The Emoji Check-In: Invite team members to choose an emoji that represents how they’re feeling about the current project or their work in general. This is a quick and visually engaging way for everyone to share their current state of mind and can lead to insights about the team’s morale and challenges

Follow Up on Action Items

Finally, it’s crucial to follow up on the action items identified during the retrospective. Assign responsibilities, set deadlines, and track the progress of each action item. This will demonstrate the team’s commitment to continuous improvement and ensure that the retrospective is not just a one-time event.

Have Fun

I firmly believe that no matter how well we prepare for our Agile Scrum retrospectives, they should also be about having fun with the team. I’ve found that when we enjoy these sessions, we’re more engaged and honest, creating a positive and productive environment for innovation. So, while we focus on continuous improvement, I never underestimate the power of laughter and camaraderie in driving our team’s success.

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