Agile Retrospectives:
The complete guide

This is a complete guide to agile retrospectives in 2019.

In this in-depth guide you'll learn:

  • How to prepare awesome agile retrospectives formats
  • How to facilitate retrospectives (with trust and energy)
  • How to keep going with fresh retrospective ideas
  • Lots more

So if you’re ready to go “all in” with retrospectives, this guide is for you.

Let’s dive right in.

About the author

Front picture of Arthur von Kriegenbergh (looking in camera, with dark hair and blue shirt)

Hi, I'm Arthur von Kriegenbergh.

(And my company's name is Agile Arthur)

Since 2011 I have helped 60+ teams get from average to GREAT using agile retrospective meetings.

In fact, this is the single most important meeting in agile.

And in this guide I’m going to show YOU why, and how to use it for high-performing teams.

Chapter 1:
The Agile Retrospective Fundamentals

In this chapter you will learn the fundamentals.

So if you’re new to retrospectives, or want to make sure you’re on the right track, you’ll love this chapter.

Then, in later chapters, we’ll cover advanced preparation, tips, facilitation techniques, and ideas.

But for now, let’s cover some key Retrospective meeting fundamentals.

What are Agile Retrospectives?

In the Agile Manifesto there are 12 principles. Agile principle #12 reads:

"At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly."

An Agile retrospective is a time-boxed meeting in Agile. Teams use the retrospective to reflect on what happened since the last retro, and identify actions for improvement going forward.

Retrospectives are usually done:

  • Right after a Sprint Review (in Scrum)
  • At the end of an iteration or as a recurring appointment (with other agile methods)
  • As a release retrospective
  • At the end of a project

Retrospectives done right, can make your team super successful.

However, when executed poorly, your team will quickly lose its interest. With lot's of damage control needed as a result.

Why more businesses are going all in with Agile

78% of organisations worldwide believe agile working will benefit them. However, only 44% of organisations are applying agile successfully.

Chapter 2:
How to prepare the Retrospective

Do you need to invest some time to get high-quality retrospectives? Yes.

Does this preparation needs to be hours?

Nope!

In fact, you can usually prepare GREAT retros, by making smart use of things you're already doing anyway.

And if you’re really short on time, I’ll show you a few hacks you can use to prepare pro retros without any time investment.

Let’s dive in.

What's most urgent for your team?

If you're failing to plan, then you're planning to fail.

Chapter 3:
Proven Agile Retrospectives Format

In this chapter I’m going to hand you the proven agile retrospective format.

This is a detailed format that will help you get your team from idea to action in your retrospectives.

So if you’ve ever struggled with the retrospective preparation process, this template will come in handy.



1. Set the stage

Get everybody warmed up, open and build trust.

2. Gather data

Learn what's on the team's mind about the topic.

3. Generate insights

Build on each-other's ideas and see patterns.

4. Decide what to do

Without getting to at least ONE action item, you're retro is a waste of time.

5. Close the retro

Retroception. Learn about the retro-process, so you can improve it next time.

Chapter 4:
Facilitating a group of people

Now that you know the retro format, it’s time to get the most out of it.

And in this chapter I’m going to show you exactly how to facilitate retros that are AWESOME.

(Including lots of advanced tips and techniques that I’ve learned from years of facilitation).

So if you’ve ever wondered how to get the most out of your a group of people, you’ll learn a ton from this chapter.

Smile! (a.k.a. Keeping the energy high)

When you're the facilitator (in any meeting), the most important thing you can you is to bring a smile.

This will not only make yourself feel more relaxed. It will also show to the people in the room.

When working with teams, there are different levels you will go through:

1. Absence of trust
2. Fear of conflict
3. Lack of commitment
4. Avoidance of accountability
5. Inattention to results

Bonus Chapter:
Fresh Retrospective Ideas

Now that you’ve got the basics of agile retrospectives down, it’s time to dive into some advanced material.

Specifically, I’m going to show you 6 advanced preparation strategies that I use to make my retros better.

Don't change the retro too much

When your retrospectives feel like they are becoming a choir the reason can be two things:

  • A: You are not making any progress as a team between retro's
  • B: There's more potential in your team

Before changing up retro formats, make really, really sure that you're not in the A-camp. Changing your retro is not the problem. It is the progress your team is making. Have the difficult conversations. Work things out.

With that being said. Doing the same retro activities every time can feel repeating at times.