64 team-retrospective

Retrospectives are an essential tool used by Agile teams to identify areas for improvement on a continuous basis. The Retrospective should take place each sprint and be documented for historical review.

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Related Mindset:





The input for a Retrospective is the team’s answers to three questions; what’s working, what isn’t working, and what the team can do better next time.


The output of a Retrospective is one or two improvement stories added to the next sprint.

Retrospectives occur at the end of each sprint and are used to discuss existing practices, with a focus on ways the team can improve during the next sprint.

The Iteration Retrospective is a construct of agile development. The Retrospective is a meeting that occurs at the end of each sprint and is used to discuss existing practices, with a focus on ways the team can improve during the next sprint.

In the SAFe® Lean Agile Mindset, the Retrospective represents the pillar of relentless improvement. Only team members participate in the Retrospective with the Scrum Master facilitating. The event is time boxed to an hour or less and revolves around the following questions:

  • What’s working well?
  • What isn’t?
  • What can the team do better next time?

A successful Retrospective incorporates the following:

  • Quantitative Insights - Capture measurements, such as team velocity, to share at the Retrospective to provide context.
  • Qualitative Insights - Additional insights, such as team dependencies, to provide further context beyond the numbers.
  • Improvement Stories - Based on the team’s feedback on what could be done better, capture 1-2 stories to be included in the next sprint’s work. Ensure they are achievable by the team and not based on factors beyond the team’s control.
  • Full Team Participation - The full team, Product Owner, Team and Scrum Master should participate. Retrospectives should be a collaborative process, allowing everyone the chance to speak.
  • Review of Previous Sprint’s Improvement Stories - Review the stories that the team committed to focus on during the last Retrospective. Discuss progress, and if further work is needed, consider adding that to the stories committed to in the next sprint.

Retrospectives are one of the most commonly used tools in the Agile toolkit. According to VersionOne’s 10th Annual State of Agile survey, nearly three-quarters of all Agile teams conduct regular Retrospectives.1

Common Pitfalls

Even in organizations that regularly complete Retrospectives, there are problems that can occur in the implementation which can cause a derivation from the ideal implementation:

  • Not Taking Action - Holding the Retrospective is only half the work; ensuring that improvements are made based on the feedback shared is equally important. Not taking action can lead to team members becoming frustrated with the process and result in a lack of participation in future Retrospectives.
  • Including Members Beyond the Team - The Retrospective is for the Team only and should be a safe place to openly share feedback. Including members beyond the team could end up limiting how candid team members are.
  • Playing the Blame Game - This is an opportunity to build the team and their sense of self management. It is not a place to point fingers or place blame. These sessions should be productive and facilitated in such a way that they are productive.
  • Setting Realistic Goals - A Retrospective may result in a lengthy list of what could be better if the team is experiencing some challenges. Prioritize the list as a team and only commit to implementing one or two changes in the next sprint. Attempting to do more will only lead to a lack of faith in the process when the full list isn’t implemented in the next sprint.
  • Lack of Participation - Many scenarios could lead to a lack in team participation. This could include Retrospectives being new to some team members or negative experiences on previous team Retrospectives. Find ways to engage the full team, and ensure the meeting time and location are convenient. The Scrum Master should look for creative ways to change up the process in an effort to ensure participation.


There are multiple tools for Retrospectives. Ideally an organization will want to capture feedback in a shared location, accessible by the full team.

A sampling of these tools can include anything from comprehensive Agile project management toolsets to shared document tools.