HomeAgileWhat is a Retrospective in Agile Methodology?

What is a Retrospective in Agile Methodology?

Everybody is talking about the retrospective these days. There are a lot of books and even more articles about it. Retrospective seems to become a magic word, but what really goes on in that room?

A retrospective is a meeting in which a team reflects on what has happened during the past period, for example, a month or a project. Similar to an iteration, the time period depends on how long the team needs to process its experiences. And it also adjusts future work based on the outcomes of previous actions.

Retrospectives are done by all kinds of teams: technology teams, agile software development teams, business analysis teams, etc. It also brings out possible problems that could occur in the future so they can be addressed before becoming larger issues.

What is Retrospective in agile?

The retrospective is a meeting in Agile Software development at the end of an iteration. Here the team discusses their past work of the last sprint (to make sure that all the team members are pointing towards the same direction), to improve their future work.

As mentioned is 12th principle of agile manifesto:

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

Sometimes this happens organically, other times it happens because of an individual’s energy or focus. At each step, the team attempts to improve or develop a more efficient form of behavior.

It addresses several key aspects of performance management like:

  • Setting up realistic goals and hardwood to achieve them.
  • Using performance metrics to track progress toward these goals.
  • Self-evaluating performance and outdoor activities in light of current conditions and opportunities
  • Proactively monitoring for hazards and taking action to protect teammates.

The retrospective examines where we are now and where we might need to go. We consider both the successes and failures of the past week (and month and year). This exercise helps the team identify areas for improvement and sets Goals for the next period.

A customary retrospective gets the team thinking about how to make things better. When it happens periodically, it can form an important part of an organization’s process for hiring, setting goals for performance, and setting motivators and functions.

This kind of retrospective can be done systematically across the organization or even between different projects within an organization. The intent is to improve and adjust activities, processes, and methods. So as to produce greater effect from each person’s contribution in getting things done.

The purpose of retrospective

A retrospective is a critical step in agile development. It provides an opportunity to look back at what has worked. And what needs to be changed in order to advance towards the next level of performance.

This retrospective is essential for effective agility development. Before each sprint, we look back to see what went right and wrong and retool accordingly. This not only helps us find areas we can improve but also identifies patterns in how we do things.

We can take this as an opportunity to improve for the next sprint and beyond. A retrospective does this by looking back at previous iterations of the project.

By doing this, we can detect any patterns and set goals for ourselves. We can also see who has been most effective in influencing other people toward particular actions or goals.

How to run a retrospective

There are many different methods for running a retrospective. But, let’s look at a method that is very popular for a retrospective in agile. This method is called “Start, Stop, and Continue.”

First, you need to create a visual board with three columns labeled “Start, Stop, and Continue”. Now in each column add notes (Sticky notes are mostly used) to write tasks.

  • Start: This column includes the new actions that you need to add.
  • Stop: This shows those actions that are not performing well and need to stop or change.
  • Continue: This will include those actions that are working well and need to keep doing.

So you’ve to write about what they want to keep doing (in Start column). What they would like to stop doing (in Stop column), and what they would like to continue doing (in continue column).

Steps to conduct a retrospective

One of the most important activities that will aid in your agile transformation is running retrospectives.

This provides an opportunity for the team members to evaluate their performance. It is also very helpful to discuss obstacles and actions to improve performance and overall team effectiveness.

These are 10 actionable steps to run a retrospective effectively.

  • Define the purpose of the retrospective
  • Set the ground rules for participants
  • Arrange a location for active participation
  • Collect and prepare materials
  • Prioritize the actions in your plan
  • Involve the whole team in the retrospective discussion
  • Manage time and relationships
  • Focus on what you can learn not what went wrong?
  • Establish a plan to act on what you discovered
  • Closeout productively with a satisfaction survey

Click here for Online Retrospective

Benefits of running an agile retrospective

There is no better way to learn than to look back and assess where you were at the time that your decision was made. The benefit of retrospective in agile is that you get a chance to see your actions from all angles and all perspectives.

If your team won a particular competition and you were one of the many who competed. But then lost out on the award because of some unforeseen circumstances. Then a review of your performance at the time can help you figure out how you could have done things differently.

A retrospective keeps us from dwelling on the successes or failures of the past, instead of focusing on what worked and what needs work. The purpose of the retrospective isn’t to judge the past but to learn from it.

That means you should use the experience to improve your current techniques, strategies, and processes. It’s critical that you don’t use the retrospective as an excuse to avoid learning or making changes in your organization.

The ability for retrospective reviews in agile is creating the agility miracle. As Daniel Goleman says in his book, the retrospective is the equivalent of “going back in time” to investigate problems.

We can examine our actions, choices, and decisions from the past to identify problems and opportunities for improvement. This approach highlights previous decisions that led to problems and draws attention to successes where those solutions were implemented.

Here are some benefits of using agile retrospectives

  • Helps in keeping things under control
  • A valuable process for customer collaboration
  • Provides clarity on how to go forward
  • Serves as a vehicle for continuous improvement
  • Helps in more effective communication
  • Allows and encourages frequent self-assessment


The retrospective is an important part of agile methodologies. It will help you to have creativity and innovation, which will help drive the team to new levels of success in the future.

Agile is an iterative software development approach that employs a time-boxed iterative cycle, called the “sprint” which is similar to a “planning” in the waterfall life cycle.

Agile retrospectives are essential meetings for organizations adopting agile methods. In fact, some agile coaches believe they have the highest ROI of any meeting.


Why retrospective is important in agile?

In agile development, we aim to quickly iterate on ideas and approaches. A retrospective makes sure we haven’t taken any (bad) risks that will hold us back. It is a time for understanding what went well and what could have gone better. It’s also time to take action to improve the future.

What happens during the agile retrospective?

During the agile retrospective, every team member gives feedback on their performance during the previous actions. This feedback serves two purposes: It helps the new hire decide what needs to be addressed for their next phase of development, and it encourages long-term teamwork among the team members.



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