If run well, a sprint retrospective can help the project team identify areas for improvement for individual roles as well as discuss how to work better as a team. If run poorly, the meeting can turn into a bashing session which ultimately results in missed opportunities for growth.

Collaboration: The Essence of a Good Spring Retrospective

Let’s face it, not all teams are collocated. Today, many software development teams are virtual organizations. Good thing there are tons of online tools and platforms to facilitate sprint retrospectives for distributed teams. One good example is FunRetro, which allows teams to collaborate remotely. This is an effective tool that has been used by thousands of teams to improve their retrospectives.

The Sprint Retrospective Attendees

Because the spring retrospective is the time to reflect on the project’s development process, the full Scrum team needs to attend. This includes the Scrum Master, Product Owner, and the development team.

  • Scrum Master - The Scrum Master is the facilitator of the team, the person is responsible for promoting and supporting by helping everyone understand Scrum theory, practices, rules, and values.
  • Product Owner - The product owner is the leader responsible for maximizing the value of the products created by a scrum development team.
  • Development Team - Everyone who is designing, building, and testing the product.

The Scrum Master should always be attending spring retrospectives because he or she is an integral part of the whole process. This person serves as the coach of the Scrum team and points out where the team is not adhering to its rules and values.

There is an existing debate as to whether or not the Product Owner should attend sprint retrospectives. Some think that his or her presence is vital but on the other hand, some feel that the product owner’s presence defeats the main purpose of retrospective meetings which is to provide a safe and open place for feedback discussions because it might inhibit the team from being completely honest or revealing difficult issues.

However, the Scrum Guide defines the Sprint Retrospective as “an opportunity for the Scrum Team to inspect itself and create a plan for improvements to be enacted during the next Sprint”. This means that the event is meant for the Scrum Team as a whole: Development Team, Scrum Master and Product Owner. There is no way that the Scrum team will reach its full potential if only the developers discuss which areas they should improve on.

If the Product Owner is not considered to be a part of the team, then this is an issue that needs to be overcome; in fact, it is a good topic to be discussed in the retrospective. If you and your team are tempted to hold a sprint retrospective without your product owner, think about why and discuss it. The Scrum team and the product owner need to share their trust. This is the only way that the team can perform at its maximum capacity.

Who Shouldn’t Be Attending the Sprint Retrospective

The meeting should be a “safe place” where the Scrum team discusses their recent sprint and the improvements they are going to implement for the next one. According to The Disciplined Agile Framework, the “safe place” is affected by the presence of people with positional authority, potential agendas or other implicit impacts. Having outsiders as guests at the retrospective will change the dynamics. However, it is the decision of the team if they will allow outsiders in their sprint retrospectives.

Tips for Product Owners in a Sprint Retrospective

  • Be part of the Scrum Team

As stated above, there are instances where product owners are not invited in the sprint retrospective. If you are a product owner and you’re not being invited to the meetings, discuss this issue with the team first. If you are deliberately not attending the meetings, you are wasting opportunities to strengthen your relationship with them.

  • Take part in the discussions

If you are already attending the meeting, make sure to take part in the discussions in the improvement of the team’s work. If you have any concerns, say it constructively. Don’t attend just to tell everybody what to do.

  • Talk about what went well

Most teams only discuss the negative issues during sprint retrospectives but it’s important to talk about the good stuff as well. Dwelling too much on the negative can decrease team morale. “If your retrospective is an hour long and the whole hour is about what went wrong, no one is going to eagerly participate in them going forward.” - Marco Corona for Agile Connection

About the author: This is a guest post by the folks at FunRetro. They know a lot about retrospectives, go check them out.

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