The Agile Coach
Agile Retrospectives in Scrum

What is retrospective?


What is retrospective: retrospective is an opportunity to learn and improve. 


Why Retrospective: It is time set aside – outside of day-to-day routine – to reflect on past events and behaviors. 


Most Common format?

  • What worked well?
  • What didn’t work well?
  • What are we going to try to do differently?

In non-agile environments retrospectives are sometimes done after a project is finished as a “post mortem” to derive “lessons learned”. Those tend to be long meetings.

In contrast, in agile environments, a retrospective is short and done often (e.g. 90 minutes at the end of a 2-week sprint). Thus the project is still in progress and you can address issues jeopardizing the project’s success in time, hopefully keeping it on track.


Who takes part?

“The team” whoever that includes in your context. In Scrum, it’s usually the whole Scrum team with the dev team, PO and SM. If you have a specific topic that includes/affects people from outside the team invite them to work on a joint solution.


What happens in a retrospective?

A bunch of people come together and discuss how things went in the past and how they can improve. People in the retrospective agree on certain things and improve things 


You can take a little more sophisticated approach to the retrospectives and really think about how you might facilitate this meeting so that everyone is heard, people have time and psychological safety to hear each other’s ideas, and they are able to walk away with action items that will improve the situation of the team.

Diana Larson and Esther Derby on their book “Agile Retrospectives“ have broken down the retrospective in the below steps :

  1. Set the stage
    Set the goal; Give people time to “arrive” and get into the right mood
  2. Gather data
    Help everyone remember; Create a shared pool of information (everybody sees the world differently)
  3. Generate insight
    Why did things happen the way they did?; Identify patterns; See the big picture
  4. Decide what to do
    Pick a few issues to work on and create concrete action plans of how you’ll address them
  5. Close the retrospective
    Clarify follow-up; Appreciations; Clear end; How could the retrospectives improve?

We recommend that you think about how you can add activities to unlock collaboration and inspire creative ideas.


What is a retrospective NOT:

  • A blame game – Retrospectives are not about ass coverage and assigning blame. In fact, some facilitators start their retrospectives by reading out the “Retrospective Prime Directive“:

    Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.
    Concentrate on what you will do in the future.
  • Just another meeting in which talk is cheap but no change follows – If the retrospectives don’t produce concrete actions or if no one carries them out afterwards, retrospectives are a waste of time.






  • Kicking off with Prime Directive


  • Taking a look at what went well and what went wrong to identify what we can improve upon
  • A point when the team can stop and reflect to see if they are going in the right direction
  • A way for the team to look back and see how they can improve
  • A way for the team to celebrate what they have achieved


  • At the end of the sprint
  • Post sprint review


  • All members of the team, including Scrum Master
  • Include managers if you have to


  • Transparent, allowing free flow of ideas
  • High energy environment
  • Working agreements in place
  • Kick off and let the team members know that they can speak freely (Retrospective Prime Directive)







Kickoff – Prime Directive 

2 min

Explaining role of Prime Directive

To create a “safe space”

Have it on a slide, projecting it

 Gather Data 

10-15 mins


Gather data


Gather Insights

15-20 mins

Ask questions around how the sprint went, “larger scale standup”

Better understanding of how the sprint went and how the team can get better, coming up with a list of potential actionable items

Discussion, charts, paper to write ideas/improvements on, candy/chocolate

Decide on what to do 

10-15 mins

Focusing on improvements

Identify what we can improve on


Closeout the retrospective 

5-10 mins