(Agile) retrospectives are product team meetings with the purpose of looking back at a certain time frame (like an agile sprint, a project, or even the last week/month) and finding out what to improve and what to keep. Improvements can be on any aspect of the work environment, like the working process, team structure, work space/office, product. It is one tool to ensure continuous improvement on all those aspects and is directly related to the Agile Manifesto.

Since it is basically a brainstorming session, it can be useful to keep certain brainstorming rules in mind, e.g. the D-School brainstorming rules.

A very useful structure is the 5 Step Retrospective.

Many interesting retrospective ideas for each of those steps can be found on this Trello board.

The nice effects of a regular retrospective can be:

  • Team building and trust among team members
  • Continuous improvement of course
  • It can be almost like a therapy session
  • Closure

More interesting points that came up during the discussion:

  • Don't force people to speak but give them the space for voicing their opinion
  • Have all activities time boxed. Discussions about topics that can't be solved at the moment should be postponed.
  • Preferably have all participants in the same room
  • Don't praise people for good ideas and especially don't judge worse ideas. Just say thank you to every contribution.
  • It can be a good idea to have an informal retrospective in a bar once in a while to encourage less outgoing people to speak up as well
  • Even if a problem cannot be solved at all, it can be very helpful to voice it in a retrospective, so it can be acknowledged and people can share their experiences
  • All action items should get an owner and a due date assigned right away
  • The commonly used way of determining what issues are the most important/urgent to talk about is to cluster issues by topic and then to vote on the most important topics

I am very sorry if I forgot to mention some things here. Please feel free to add things in the comment section.