Sprint Retrospectives and Introspection
The future depends on what we do in the present.
If we fail to learn from our past, our future will be more of the same. Similar approaches will yield familiar results. If you want to intentionally develop, then you will need to start learning whats worked well in the past & what can be improved.
The Agile Sprint Retrospective
Those of you familiar with Agile, specifically, the Scrum framework will know that work is organised into 2–4 weeks timeframe called ‘Sprints’. Before a ‘Sprint’, there will be actionable issues (work items) within a ‘Backlog’. The Backlog is where known tasks are captured and are available to pull into sprints when it is the appropriate time in the project. Within the process of a sprint planning session, appropriate items/tasks that reside in the backlog are moved to the sprint, if they should be worked on within the next sprint timeframe.
Before the sprint planning session happens, there is a valuable continuous improvement opportunity, this is called the Sprint Retrospective. The Scrum Guide states that the purpose of the Sprint Retrospective is to plan ways to increase quality and effectiveness. A sprint retrospective should be timeboxed, with the Scrum Guide indicating a maximum of 3 hours for 1-month sprints, I am a proponent for 1 hour for the retrospective within a 2-week sprint.
For continuous improvement to prosper there are 3 primary areas that a sprint retrospective should focus on:
1. What did we do well within the sprint
2. What can we do better
3. Action — what learnings can we take and improve for future sprints
To realise the benefits of sprint retrospectives, it is important to ensure that the team knows they are present within a ‘safe’ environment. A safe environment helps drive engagement, as colleagues are happy to share thoughts without risk of repercussions, this is key if you truly want to push forward with successful outcomes. As colleagues who hold back valuable insights through the perceived risk of persecution will not add value to the team dynamic.