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The Value of Retrospective

During the process of product delivery in agile culture, we typically end an iteration with a team retrospective meeting. Every team member in the delivery team is required to attend the session. The motivation of holding a retrospective session is to allow everyone voicing out their opinion and concern on how the team has performed during the previous sprint. All of the feedbacks and ideas that were discussed during this session are recorded and each action item is assigned to team member who has strong opinion and want to make that idea happen. The value of retrospective is that problem and issue can be identified early, team member that need help can be noticed early and blockers can be removed, increasing team productivity and output.

Mistakes should be examined, learned from, and discarded; not dwelled upon and stored.

— Tim Fargo

Safety Check

The core of retrospective is to capture all feedback, good or bad, from the team member, and thus the most important thing during the retrospective session is that everyone should feel safe to voice out their honest opinion on what they have observed from the previous sprint. Not everyone feel the same comfortable level when working as a team, especially those who has just joined the team, and thus it is good to know the overall safety level on the team earlier. If the safety level is low, we should conduct the session as anonymously as possible.


Mural is one of the popular tools to be used for a retrospective session. It is an online collaboration tools that allow team members come together to discuss and interact with note taking function. It also supports private mode and voting session which is useful for conducting anonymous session. There are many templates here that can be readily used for retrospective, and this is one of my favourite. You can customised the template with adding a safety check section and a quote from Norm Kerth.

Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.

— Norm Kerth


While there is no definitive way of conducting a retrospective, a good session is usually facilitated as follows:

  1. Reiterate the importance of the goal and value of retrospective — it is not a session to pointing out who is to blame, but a place to identify issue and resolve it as a team by listening to each other opinion.
  2. Optionally conduct an anonymous voting for safety check. When the safety check result is low, the session should be conducted in private mode. Facilitator could suggest to those who felt not safe that they could express their opinion and delegate it to a close buddy instead.
  3. Set a 3-5 minutes time for check-in session and let everyone navigate and familiarise with the tools.
  4. Set a 15 minutes time for giving feedback on “What went well” and “What did not go well” section.
  5. Briefly go through all the feedbacks and group the feedbacks that belongs to the same issue or idea together.
  6. If all the feedbacks cannot be addressed in this session, conduct a voting session to find the most interesting feedback to discuss.
  7. Set a 30 minutes time and choose the most voted feedback ,order from high to low, for the discussion.
  8. Note down the conclusion and action item, and assign team member who is willing to become the champion of the item.
  9. Conclude the session by checking out everyone with a voting for happiness score.

Keep Learning

Depends on the project and team culture, retrospective might not be working well. Especially team with closed culture, one to one session might be more successful in identifying what went well and not. Nevertheless, a good engaging retrospective session can do well in encouraging each team member to be more open and motivated in speaking out their opinion. It is also a good place for each team member to give gratitude and receive recognition of their contribution. By doing retrospective, we accept and examine our mistakes made along the way and quickly resolve the issue by learning from it. This is one of the important Agile value and a pattern that makes a successful project.

Published Jan 27, 2023