What is Sprint Retrospective Meeting

Sprint Retrospective the one of the important ceremony of your sprint cycle, Its usually very common on Scrum framework, many teams also conduct this ceremony for their Kanban practice on a regular interval.

Generally this meeting takes place after sprint review meeting and before the sprint planing of next sprint. If you want to conduct your meeting for your kanban cycle, you can define a interval like every 15 days to schedule it.

This meeting enables the feedback loop to achieve continuous improvement. No matter how mature your team is, opportunities of improvement is always there. This meeting gives the freedom to all member your team to speak about what they feel can be improved, or what they feel can be stopped. This meeting also enable the empirical model by inspecting the process from transparent input and adapt opportunities of improvement.

The main difference of sprint review and retrospective is, Sprint review talks about the achievement, upcoming works for the functional increments, more about the product. where retrospective highlights more about the process like. “Resolution of cross functional dependencies” can be improved, “On-time joining on daily stand-up can be improved”. etc

We will talk about details about, How we can conduct Retrospective, Different ways of Doing Retrospective, Tools you can use to do your retrospective, how to capture and work on the action item of retrospective.

Participants Sprint Retrospective Meeting

As we already learned that this meeting is to inspect the as is process practice and identify the improvement areas. Its always better to have the Scrum teams (SM + PO + Development team members) presence.

There is no harm on getting the feedback from external team members like cross functional Team your Integration team, even your stakeholders and business sponsor can also participate to provide their feedback, ideas to improve your practice and opportunities to adapt the best suitable practice for the team.

Its all depends upon your team’s relation and association with external team members and their participation’s.

For example, if you are working with the user stories those are highly depend upon another team like your team needs to have some functionality developed, where a Data Definition Language needs to altered. Due to the big complex product, organization have centralized a cross functional team (Lets “Team DDL”) for managing any kind DDL changes. The Team DDL have their own scrum or Kanban flow, they work on based on the priority from other product owners. Your team needs to have a very good synchronization with “Team DDL” to resolve any kind of dependencies your sprint have. During the retrospective input from “Team DDL” or Your input to “team DDL”’s retrospective may add values to improve the work practice for both the team.

If there are multiple scrum team working for one big product, Its need to be integrated code increment from all the Scrum Team before deploy to a next stage (example System Demo). You code may directly or indirectly relate to code from other team. So synchronization in important, and Retrospective action item to improve synchronization always better.

Involvement of external team member is absolutely Optional. But presence of Product Owner, Scrum Master and Development team member is very much required.

No Matter you are working on a Product Based company or Service Industry, Your Product Owner or Scrum Master are from Client side or Same Company. Product owner, Scrum Master and Development team are One Single Team. Mutually you can inspect and adapt for betterment.

Similarly Scrum Master keep all the participants engaged, facilitate the meeting and make sure the meeting happened, and protect the agile process.

At the same time, if you are involving Other team member mainly from Management or stake holders and Business owners, there are very high chances of deviating for the agenda of the retrospective. You need to be very cautious to stick to the Retrospective agenda.

As Agile an Empirical Model, with the pillars of Inspect, Adapt and transparency. You can have the Retrospective within your Scrum team only and later shared the Action items and Retrospective points to all management and cross functional team. In Practical Its little hard to change others, but you can change and adapt yourself to perform better with the external constraints.

In few situations You may face product owner act as a manager, or commanding member, which is not correct. Please take help from your local coach to get the situation handled.

One Important Point, irrespective of participation from Scrum team, cross functional Team, Management etc, the Inputs has to come anonymously, to give freedom of speech and solution will be planned mutually.

Will learn more about the process of doing retrospective techniques later in this article.

Duration of Sprint Retrospective Meeting

Again this meeting down does not have strict time boundary. You need to optimize the usage of the time, focus on the primary agenda of the meeting to inspect and adapt. will talk about what and how you can conduct this meeting to get the benefit of Retrospective.

There are couple of events you can do during retrospective.

  1. Gather opinion of good and bad practices from the participants
  2. Prepare Action items to improve your practice
  3. optionally you can play some agile games, Quiz etc to build team moral and bonding.

which typically can take 1 Hour, it some time can take some little more time. The time does not varies on the sprint duration, 2 weeks sprint, 3 weeks sprint or even 4 weeks sprint does not  influence the retrospective duration because of the sprint length. As the number of  retrospective areas remain same. However the time can varies on below mentioned points.

  1. Team size (less team member may have less points compared with big team size.
  2. How new the team is on Agile Process (as its team may need coaching to learn the process during the retrospective.
  3. Controversy on he retrospective points
  4. Conflicts on preparing action Items, and assigning the action items.
  5. Team building activity like quiz or Games.
  6. participation of external team member.

You can plan you retrospective for 1 hour 30 min, if you are new to the scrum, once you get matured you can bring it down to 1 Hour.

You can further save time by using various tools (I will explain it later in this article) to gather inputs from team members in advance.

How to run the Sprint Retrospective Meeting

Sprint Retrospective is the last ceremony of every sprint, Please refer the picture to understand the position of retrospective at sprint life-cycle.

Now lets talk about the ways you can conduct this ceremony to get the best out of it.

There can be two different team distributions collocated or distributed. You may be part of a distributed team or a collocated team, in both the cases this ceremony is equally important.

For Retrospective we need to gather inputs from Scrum team members and from the team you think your team work is related to. We should try to get the information anonymously, to increase the freedom of speech, and get the opportunities of getting maximum inputs.

The collection of information

For a co-located team the meeting can conducted in a closed room with a whiteboard, the information can be come from individual on sticky notes, each sticky notes should have only one points/appreciation/concern/suggestions, you may use multiple sticky notes for multiple points/appreciation/concern/suggestions. Every participant can write their points with in meeting during starting of the meeting. Or they can keep the sticky notes ready before the meeting start. I always suggest, keep on writing all the points of retrospective, as soon as it comes in your mind, it may possible you may have forgot the points that was on your mind on the first day of the sprint. As this ceremony is the last ceremony of the sprint and conducted on the last day of the sprint.

for a Distributed Team the collection of the retrospective points can be collected with the help of retrospective tools over the internet. There are many tools available over the internet for free to do your retrospective, I will talk about couple of them later in this article. Using those tools the team members can add their retrospective points electronically at the digital retrospective board.

Adding Retrospective points/ideas to the board.

For distributed team using the digital tools the Retrospective item cards will automatically appear on the retrospective board. Many co-located team also use the digital board for easiness. However the collocated team can draw the board on any white board and start putting the sticky notes at the designated area of the board.

Understanding the Board

Let’s understand the retrospective board. There are many ways of structuring the retrospective board, I will discuss 3 of the most popular way of preparing the board. Also known as Retrospective Techniques.

  1. Simple Retrospective
  2. Star fish Retrospective
  3. Sail Boat Retrospective

Simple Retrospective

This is the most common way of conducting retrospective, where the retrospective concerns and ideas are captured on three categories. and the meeting concluded with the identification of action items.

the sample board of this retrospective for co-located and distributed teams looks like as below

Simple Retrospective board for Co-located team
Simple Retrospective board for Co-located team
Simple Retrospective board for Distributed team

Here the main goal is to capture concerns & ideas that can be categorized on three different areas

  1. What went well / Keep Doing
  2. What did not go well / Stop Doing
  3. Suggestions to improve / Start doing


Creating the Board and capturing Retrospective points

Scrum master facilitate the ceremony, all participants gathered at one room and try to capture the points from all participants. its always better to capture the points from every one anonymously.

if you are using a physical board, draw one vertical lines and one physical line (a big plus sign), it will create 4 separate areas (refer the above sample board). Then each category a name like , Keep doing, Start Doing,  Stop Doing and Action Item.

Once the board is ready Scrum Master distribute set of sticky notes to all (better if the color of sticky notes are different for each color for each category. And ask  the participants to write the points every one feel on the Sticky notes, any one can write any number of  cards if they need.

This points are only to improve the process and practice not to blame or criticize individuals.

I suggest to distribute those sticky notes during sprint planning itself, to all. So that the team member can write the notes of retrospective points on respective colors of card at the time of event. its very much possible to forget small or large events after 2 or 3 weeks. Finally during retrospective they can just show their cards.

If your team is distributed, and meeting physically is not possible, then you can take advantage of many online retrospective tools like IdeaBordz, Trello  etc to conduct your retrospective. Here also I suggest to have the Retro board created just after sprint Planning meeting, and share the Board link to every one during string start, so that the team members can get the opportunity to record their points at the occurrence of event or realization. The team can also add points during the meeting, if every one have accessibility of the tool.

Adding the retrospective point cards and have a discussion

Once everyone ready with the card, Scrum Master or any volunteer can collect the cards and arrange them in the board, this can be done in more organized way, if the team use color codes, and arrange them accordingly.

For example, if you want to write any points about, “what went well” or “keep doing” use green sticky, for “what did not go well” or “Stop doing” use a red sticky, for “Suggestions” or “Start doing” use a yellow sticky, and finally for “Action Item” use blue sticky. This will help the card organizer to easily put the sticky notes to its appropriate bucket.

This color arrangement is not required for digital or online tool. As the team member will create the cards on its designated bucket.

Once the cards are arranged on the board, team needs to talk about each cards and needs to be reach to a mutual understanding, there are chances a conflict which needs to be resolved mutually and may need to conclude with an action Item.  

Cast Your Vote

Now its time to vote the points, each team member can vote or support retrospective cards, the reason for voting is to get a calculation point to prioritize the cards, the most voted card will be taken with high priority.

The method of voting can be any convenient way the team feels. For a team having the retrospective on a physical board can add small sticky tags, for example

  1. The scrum master can distribute 3 small sticky tags to each member, and once the retrospective cards are arranged, each member can put their sticky tags to the cards they feel most important to resolve, they can put all the three tags on one card or can choose three different cards to put 1 tag each. Its not compulsory that the member has to put all the three tags, he/she can just use one tag and one card. (remember this is just an example, you can decide the number of tags and mapping with cards that best suit your need.)
    Once the voting is done the physical board may look like this.


  1. scrum master can have the voting manually and write on each card, which I feel is not that organized.


  1. In case of Digital tool like Ideaboardz, the tools provide options to vote on each card anonymously, its like a Facebook “likes” , more likes treated as more voted. Sample is a screen shot of Ideaboardz with option of voting.
Setup Action Item

So far we learned how we can capture the retrospective points get the voting. Once you have the voting done, lets prepare the action Item, this is the most important part, we know what is the problem to resolve it we need to plan some action.

Remember don’t plan too many action item, most team fails on retrospective because of too many action items. I always suggest any top 3 voted retrospective cards and prepare action items against them.

You can mutually construct best possible action item, and if possible assign some one in the team as owner of the action item with an ETA.

Your action item(s) can be one retrospective card to one action item, or if there are more than one related retrospective points, those can be merged to one action Item.

from the above example, please refer the diagram below to understand how the action Items getting generated  from top voted retrospective cards.

Preparing action Item on Physical Board

Preparing action Item on IdeaBoardz

Once you have mutually identified the action items, and planned to execute it you can conclude the retrospective meeting.

Before we talked about online tools on retrospective, lets learn about two other ways of conducting the retrospective, Start Fish Retrospective and Sail Boat Retrospective

Star Fish Retrospective.

This is another way to collect retrospective and arrange on board. The concept & goal is same. And This process also caters three questions

  1. What went well
  2. What did not go well
  • What can be improved

Only difference is, here we make 5 buckets to categorizing the cards. Please refer the image below to understand how you can prepare the board in your physical white board or how it looks like in Digital boards like Ideaboardz.

The starfish retrospective distributes the retrospective board into 5 areas.

  1. Keep : The practice the team is doing good, and wants to continue the practice
  2. More : Some areas of practice the team believe is good, with improvement opportunity, by increasing the areas where the team believe is beneficial, however it can add more values by doing it more.
    Example :  “you are doing Grooming Once a week, where you feel its defiantly increasing the backlog health, and providing groomed stories during sprint planning, however the stories are not sufficient enough to meet the available capacity, In this case you might want to increase the grooming frequency from 1 to 2 or 3 times a week ”.
  3. Start : The new Ideas or suggestions, that the team believe will be beneficial by introducing as practice.
  4. Less : The process or practice areas which are adding values, but the team believe the frequency can be reduced. And team will get benefit or will not lose any benefit by doing it little less.
    Example “you are doing Grooming thrice a week, where you feel the goal can be managed by doing the grooming twice or once a week, and get additional capacity for construction”
  5. Stop : The areas which is not adding values or become obstacles on the process.

The Physical board can be prepared by drawing those 5 lines and give it a star fish shape, or the digital board can be prepared programmatically (mainly for distributed teams.).

Once the board is prepared the retrospective cards in forms of Sticky notes can be added to respective sections on your physical board, or it can be added on web on digital retrospective boards. Then do the brain storming session on each points there may be conflicts between team, Scrum Master needs to take a stand to resolve any conflicts. It’s not about blaming each other, focus on improving the process and practice.

I suggest to talk about the negative points first and end up with the good points “What went well”, that way the team will end up with positive feeling and improve moral.

Secondly we can do the same voting mechanism to identify to top rated concerns and prepare the action items accordingly. The details process of adding cards, voting and preparing action items are explained on the previous section.

Remember when you are preparing the action items, don’t target for more than 3 action items. Pick top 3 concern and plan the action items accordingly.

For a physical starfish board, you can use some different color of sticky notes and put on the top of most voted 3 retrospective ideas.

Sail Boat Retrospective.

This is another way to execute the retrospective exercise, its also very simple and fun oriented. Here also we try to find out the areas like

  1. What is the goal of the team
  2. What are the areas those are stopping or blocking the team to achieve the goal, mainly the practices needs to improve or can be stopped.
  3. What are the area or practices is helping the team to achieve the goal. Mainly the practice area the teem should keep or can do more.
  4. The Risk areas, and practice to start or suggestions to mitigate the risks.

The Retrospective exercise is typically conducted with Co-located team, for distributed team we normally use either of the two exercise (Simple and star fish) mentioned earlier.

Typically for a collocated team the scrum team gathers at one room having a whiteboard, The Scrum Master draws a picture as below on the white board.

Sail Boat Retrospective

Sail Boat Diagram

The diagram shows a sail boat floating on water and moving forward a island. It has 4 major component.

  1. Island : Goal to achieve
  2. Winds: Helping the boat to move forward towards the goal
  3. An anchor: causing delay or creating impediments.

Rock: potential risks

When you are drawing the picture on board, you don’t have to a great artist, you can draw it the possible way you can, with those four components.

Once the drawing is done, The team can capture the input from each member for each area of,

  • What went well for the wind area.
  • What did not go well for the Anchor area
  • Suggestions for the Rocks to mitigate the potential risks

Each member can add as many points they feel on sticky notes, its better to use different color sticky note for different areas.

Once the sticky notes are ready, the team can put them on the board, refer the below picture.

Sail Boat Retrospective
Sail Boat Retrospective

Now once the sticky notes are pasted on the board, Scrum master or any volunteer can talk about each of the points and do a brain storming session on those highlighted points.

And then finally the team can do voting on the points, The mechanism of voting will be same as discussed for Simple Retrospective session. After the voting the board will be looks something like this.

Now once the sticky notes are pasted on the board, Scrum master or any volunteer can talk about each of the points and do a brain storming session on those highlighted points.

And then finally the team can do voting on the points, The mechanism of voting will be same as discussed for Simple Retrospective session. After the voting the board will be looks something like this.

So far, we discussed three different types of exercise to conduct the retrospective how to get the retrospective points and generate the action items, using a voting mechanism.

Group Voting:  

There are chances during gathering retrospective points, that same or similar points or ideas coming from more than one team members. On those situations we combined those same or similar ideas into one group and give a name to those groups. And vote on those groups, and prepare action item against groups. This way, the votes don’t get diluted on two similar ideas.

This grouping may not require for online tools you are using, as many online tools like Ideaboardz have the functionality of voting online on Idea cards. So any one open the board online can see the existing cards, and then he/she vote ny existing card or create a new idea as card.

Tools you can use to conduct Sprint Retrospective Meeting

There are many retrospective tools available on market few are free and few are for commercially use, I will explain couple of them here, and also prepare some video tutorials for easy reference.

Now a days even co-located teams have started using internet tools for their retrospective.

Lets talk about some of those tools.


IdeaBoardz is most commonly used Retrospective Board, where you can do your retrospective exercise on Simple Retrospective method or  start fish Retrospective method.

On all my previous section of this article, I have used the Ideaboardz as example and screen shot.

This retrospective needs login for the host and participants can contribute to the board just by the link provided by the host, anonymously.

The tool also provide the  options to export the board ideas on excel or PDF format.


Go Reflect is another good tool for do retrospective exercise,

This tool provides ready to use template for couple of method like simple retrospective, star fish, Mad-sad-glad etc. along with it its also provide functionality to create your own custom board.

You can invite team members using their emails, every one can create ideas as retrospective cards. At the same time The creator can set the board to accept ideas anonymously. You can vote on each card

The tools provide a options to show a dashboard with some analytical report. And functionality to export the ideas on excel format. It also provide some administrative functionality like notification setting, member setting etc.

Refer the images below for quick reference

Pointing Poker

This tool primarily for Planning poker estimation for a distributed team. However its also provide the functionality for Capturing Retrospective ideas.

You can start a new retrospective session and invite team members to join the session, or you can join as observer as well.

it has only one template (Start / Stop / Continue) and no option to vote. This tools provide a check box to add ideas anonymously.

I personally didn’t found it very useful or have enough functionality. You may found it useful.

Scatter Spoke


This tool provide the platform of doing your retrospective, by default it shows three columns

  1. What went well
  2. What did not go well
  3. What needs changes

the columns labels are editable, with option to add 1 more column with custom text, that you can use for Action Items.

This tools provide option for voting on idea cards. Story cards color are different on each column.

The creator of the board can invite team members by using a link. and member can access the board anonymously, to add their ideas and vote. This tool provide a option to pin the idea card, you can use the pin to shortlist ideas. This tool also provide functionality to prepare grouping of multiple ideas into groups

You can export the ideas on PDF or CSV format, or you can email it as well.

Scrum Toolkit


This is a wizard based tool. it mention the retrospective exercise as game. it has two template

  1. What went Well & What can be Improved
  2. Start Doing, Continue Doing and Stop Doing

The Wizard have 6 steps

  1. Create the Game
  2. Join the Game
  3. Adding Points
  4. Grouping
  5. Voting
  6. Results.

This tool provide an url to share with team member to participate. Participants can join directly to the board without registering. The tool will not show the ideas of other team member until the other members confirms.

The state of the wizard can only be changed by the creator of the board.

The Voting mechanism is to by decide the item is more important or less important, and independent to each column.

On result column, it shows the most voted item on top. and you can prepare the action item based on the top voting. creation of action item is not possible in this tool.

The Report Provides a textual report after all the stages of the wizard.

There are many others retrospective tools over the internet, you may already have or will discover them. You can refer the above tools if you have not discovered and liked others yet.

I will make some quick video on those tool how to conduct retrospective using those tools.

Outcomes of Sprint Retrospective Meeting

Now once we are done with our Retrospective exercise, one of the prominent outcome we achieved is the

Action Items: 1 to 3 action items has now emerged, that the team will work on to improve the process, or to mitigate risks. This will help add values to business faster.

Inspect & Adapt: The team inspect the practice & process and adapt the changes for betterment to reach the goal, ultimately benefit the business and company.

Improve Team Collaboration:  The teams collaboration improves, which help them to become self organizing team. Team members feels value of their voice to overcome the bottlenecks. They become more motivated and encouraged, Improves productivity.

Reduces Gaps between development team and Customer :  The Development team  closes the distance and gap with Product Owner from customer side, and resolved issues or challenges related to requirement, Product Backlog, Acceptance. The team gets more aligned with the absolute goal they are working on.

Fun activities improve team bonding and motivation: Many team conduct the exercise as fun games, keep the team motivated, engaged, and its become a refresher. as the team is going to start a new Sprint from next day.

After Sprint Retrospective Meeting activity

Once you have concluded the retrospective. the scrum master can circulate the Retrospective notes with action items, most of the digital tools provide report to export, that can be easily shared. I suggest, Scrum Master to keep a record of all retrospective report sprint by sprint for future reference. And also prepare a status  tracker of the action items, with progress status, initiated date, primary owner etc.

Working on Action Items: The most common reason of failing to get the benefit of retrospective meeting is, not working on the action item seriously, and the meeting become a formality. So Its very very important to work on the retrospective action items. talk with with whole team at-least twice a week, for example every Tuesday and Thursday. I found teams sometime complains we already have too many meeting, lets not add more meeting, on those situations you can talk about the action item for 5 minutes after your DSM is over as 16th minute discussion item. Its up to you and your team what best suitable for you, but the action item as to be discussed with the intention to close it.

Important Notes

There are few important points you need to keep in mind to have your retrospective successful and a successful agile team.

Many company’s management thinks retrospective is not required or waste of time, that is just not correct, If you are running your project on Scrum Framework, Inspect and Adapt is very important.

Secondly at many team the retrospective is become a blame game, and deviate from the primary goal of the ceremony. It has to be on a positive mindset to improve. Speak gently give respect to all, highlight the opportunities of improvement and proceed.

Because of weak facilitation, team member may lose interest on the meeting, Scrum Master needs to engage the team and all participants in a way, based on the culture and nature of the business/project. So that every one can see the value and benefit of the meeting and also value of their participation.

This is not just a meeting to improve your process, it’s the opportunity to improve any practice to reach the goal, many time Scrum Master become to process oriented that goes against the culture of a team transforming from traditional to agile. Participants on those situation feels annoying or get bored from the meeting. On those case Scrum Master Please be very careful, you need to facilitate to keep everyone’s interest intact with a positive result.

If you don’t address the above issues, you will get low attendance or some time no attendance on retrospective, and the team will become lose the chance to inspect and adapt the improvement opportunity. And end up with not getting value addition of doing agile.


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