Retrospectives - Reflecting on the past to improve the future

Agile team Retrospective
Team Retrospective (Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash)

Retrospectives are an excellent opportunity for your teams to reflect and make plans to address areas for improvement. The Retrospective is all about continuous improvement - an ongoing effort to deliver better products - and providing the opportunity to break from the work cycle to inspect and adapt ways of working. How can you make sure your team is getting the most out of this ceremony?

What is a Retrospective?

The Retrospective is a recurring ceremony at the end of each cycle of work. It’s an excellent opportunity for the team to reflect on how they could be more effective - then adjust their behaviour for the future. The best teams measure this improvement.

The purpose of the Retrospective?

  • Inspect and discuss how the last work cycle went - particularly focusing on people, relationships, process and tools.

  • Identify and rank the things that went well, and those that didn’t go so well.

  • Create a plan of action for implementing improvements and the way the team delivers work.

A retrospective should be a safe place where the team can discuss frustrations, feedback and work together to come up with a solution - so it’s important that all team members feel safe and empowered to talk openly.

At the end of each Retrospective, the team should have identified improvements that it will implement in the next work cycle. Implementing these improvements in the next cycle will improve process, practices and delivery effectiveness.

Why should we do it?

Although a team can implement improvements at any time, the Retrospective is a great opportunity for the entire team to focus on inspecting and adapting. The output - continuous improvement will become part of the team’s everyday culture. As they get better at delivering the team will start to see how they can fine-tune their performance.

How do we get started?

While lots of teams may use different techniques, there are some standard practices that will ensure you get valuable input from the team and have everyone thinking about how they can improve. Try to ensure the focus of the meeting is about how the team worked together to deliver, rather than focusing on what was delivered.

First, consider when will be a suitable time for the entire team to gather. Traditionally in Agile projects, the Retrospective takes place at the end of each cycle (1-4 weeks) of work but find what works best for you and your team.

Make sure this is blocked out in everyone’s schedule in advance so it’s more likely to happen. Plan to spend an hour or more depending on how much your team has to cover.

Every member of the team should attend the Retrospective. It will work best with a facilitator, your team can agree to all take turns filling this role to keep things fair.

There are several ways you can run your retrospective. Below you will find a download of our template for running a well-rounded retrospective that will work for most teams whether they are working in an Agile environment or not, do download and give it a try. Remember, your first one doesn’t have to be perfect, this is all about inspecting and adapting - ‘running a better retrospective’ can be something you can take forward as an improvement!


Download our FREE template to help you structure and run your first (or improved) Retrospective!

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