What is Retrospective? Retrospective definition, when should retrospective be held, and FAQs

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What is a Retrospective?

A retrospective, or sometimes called an agile retrospective, is a meeting that takes place after the product is shipped. 

Agile teams use it to reflect on their way of working throughout the product life cycle and ponder over the ideas on how they could do better in the next product cycle.

In this meeting, the teams analyze how the previous iteration was done and what process they could adapt to improve their performance for the next iteration. 

The outcomes of the retrospective are communicated to all the team members and everyone is asked to include these ideas in the next iteration of the product. 

This makes the retrospectives an effective way to do short cycled improvement.

As the old saying goes, “To err is human,” no product team is immune to making mistakes. 

Whether it’s some small oversights, misunderstandings, or a product failure, a retrospective is a good place to inspect everything so that when a similar situation arises in the future, a person is prepared to handle it properly. 

At the end of the day, it’s not just you who is affected, sometimes the whole project could be sabotaged due to one small error.

The value of the meeting comes from conversations and dialogues. The format of the meeting plays a key role in this. 

Ideally, there must be a representative for each group present. The representative should be given an adequate amount of floor time to share their as well as their team’s view on the product. 

Doing this would give every team member a chance to give their input on the product which would ultimately benefit upcoming releases.

The participants are encouraged to bring up any positives or negatives about the product that catches their attention. 

The retrospective should be considered a safe space for bringing up contentious issues and contrary views for it to be as efficient and insightful as possible.

These meetings are mostly led by product managers as they have the most cross-functional role in the organization and have a much better understanding of what happened during product development. 

However, it is also beneficial to potentially include an impartial third-party facilitator whose job is to ensure that everyone is treated equally and given an adequate amount of floor time.

When should a Retrospective be held?

A retrospective should ideally be held after any major release or project within a week of shipping. 

In fact, you can be more granular with it and hold micro-retrospectives. 

These micro-retrospectives can be about just a topic or two, but addressing something that went well or didn’t go well in a collaborative environment, which ultimately is a great way to learn from the success or failures and build upon them moving forward. 

Participants are likely to provide honest feedback and be receptive to the ideas of other members is these retrospectives are held more frequently. if they only happen after something really bad happens they’ll be associated with negativity, which isn’t the intent.

FAQs

Q: What should the end result of a retrospective be?

A: A retrospective does not have any right or wrong outcomes. There could, however, be some kind of a list of things that went well, things that went terribly wrong, and things that could use a bit of improvement.

Q: Does the Product Owner need to participate in the retrospective?

A: The Product Owner may choose to participate in the retrospective, being a part of the Scrum team, but is not required to be there.

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