Retrospectives – Building Great Teams

This article was originally published on January 22, 2014.

The first thing I do when a Scrum Master tells me that they didn’t do a sprint retrospective because of lack of time is count…slowly…to ten, plastic smile pasted on my face while I try to focus through the red haze in front of my eyes, chaotic thoughts running through my mind…No time for improvement? No time to become more productive? No time to become great?”, before I regain some semblance of rationality. For me, the sprint retrospective is the most valuable Scrum ceremony.

It is also the first session to be ignored by teams new to Scrum, the most common reason cited being the lack of time. Generally, people will always make time for things that are important to them, so evidently new teams don’t see the sprint retrospective as important to their success. The retrospective can be as simple as the team working through 3 simple questions:

What worked well?

What didn’t work well?

What could be improved?

Off course, it’s a lot better to go deeper. Packaging the retrospective to include scene setting, check-in activities, and games takes preparation. My recommendation is to put in as much time preparing for this session as the session is long. This preparation will pay dividends because a well run session yields unbelievable results. When I was a new Scrum Master I scoured the web for ways to package a retrospective and came across Boris Gloger’s Heatbeat Retrospective which I followed to a “T”. It consists of 6 steps:

Create security

Timeline (telling the story)

What went well

What could be improved

Who is in control


It involves lots of sticky notes, acknowledgement of each person’s story and best of all the team loved it! 3 years later they still love it!

Remember, the road to great self-organising teams is paved with good sprint retrospectives.

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