What is Retrospective meeting or Retrospection in Agile project management?

In Agile project management, a retrospective meeting is held at the end of every iteration to discuss what really went well and what didn’t go well and any action items to carry over the next Sprint. Retrospective meetings are a useful to identify the ways of continuous improvement of an Agile team. Few topics for discussion could be about metrics and velocity of the team, tracking tools, defect density, team dynamics, self-organization, any potential impediments that surfaced during the iteration etc.

Retrospectives may also result in test coverage improvements, giving more importance to unit testing, test strategy and test plans. Root causes of various testing related issues can be identified and action items are suggested. Thus it also helps for continuous testing process improvement. Testers bring their unique testing perspective to the retrospective.

Retrospectives ideally may be held at the same place and same location every iteration. It is highly recommended that Scrum Master, Product Owner and the team only attend the retrospective. Managers and senior management may be barred for entering a retro meeting; the team may not speak up due to inherent fear of management. There is an eco-system of mutual trust and openness be built in a retrospective.

Sprint Retrospective meetings can be facilitated by asking each person in the team to answer a variation on the above questions. Instead of asking what went well, what didn’t go well some teams prefer –

  • What should we start doing
  • What should we stop doing
  • What should we continue to do

Teams are asked to be specific in their answers so that effective actions can be taken. The retrospective meeting is usually conducted immediately after the Sprint review meeting. It is recommended that the entire team participate in this exercise so that any issues or concerns that the teams face during the previous Sprint are addressed during the teaming and avoided in upcoming Sprints.