Sprint Retrospective Templates to Help Run Better Sprints

by Jasmin Iordanidis, Product Marketing Manager

09 Jul 2021

Agile retrospectives are a time to reflect on the sprint before. During this time, the Scrum team decides on the agile retrospective template to use during retrospective meetings. A sprint retrospective template provides a structure for retrospective meetings. These retrospective templates guide agile teams in analyzing their previous sprint.

What is an agile retrospective?

Teams use agile retrospective meetings to improve the next sprint. As the team members move through the product life cycle, they gain new learning after each sprint retrospective, which they apply to the next sprint.

The focus of the sprint retrospective meeting

Sprint retrospective meetings ask four questions, as listed below. The agile team places these four questions in the four quadrants of their retrospective template. (Note: Team members can use a whiteboard or sticky notes to set up their meetings. Or they can use Jira software to facilitate remote team meetings in real-time.)

Co-located agile teams can also use whiteboards and sticky notes to do an agile retro. But for remote teams, agile retrospective template software allows all team members to participate in sprint meetings.

Here are the four question areas for discussion:

  • What went as planned?
  • Where could the team have made improvements?
  • What should team members do in the next sprint?
  • What confuses the team?

1. What went as planned?

The agile retrospective requires in-depth analysis. Team members can chat about what they enjoyed, which methodologies worked for them, and what agile ideas are worth taking into the next sprint.

Typical questions that agile teams ask in this first stage include:

  • What were team members happy with?
  • What actions delivered positive results?
  • What processes or actions should the agile team continue with?
  • Should anyone receive a special thanks for their contribution?

2. How could the team have improved?

Stakeholders examine where they went wrong and try to find the root cause of the issues. Brainstorming involves what they could have tried previously, where improvements are needed, and what processes or actions they can test in the next sprint.

Here are some ways to make this question more concrete:

  • What has the team previously not tried that might work?
  • What is one new thing that we could attempt?
  • What new tactics or actions can we test next?

3. What should team members do in the next sprint?

In this part of the template, the team explores new ideas for how to improve their follow-up approach. New ideas can be risky, so the Scrum team should carefully consider opportunities for improvement. The idea in this questioning phase is to clarify problem areas, where value was not produced, and what was puzzling in the previous sprint.

In this round, the team should discuss:

  • What didn’t work?
  • What did the team do that did not produce value?
  • Which areas specifically require improvements?
  • What did not go as anticipated?
  • What issues in the previous sprint are confusing?

4. What still confuses the team?

In this section, the team should focus on areas that weren’t as effective or did not go as anticipated and what areas need improving. Other relevant areas include where the agile team didn’t deliver value, focus areas that require development, and what was confusing about the sprint.

Here, it’s important to talk about:

  • What questions still remain unanswered?
  • What outcomes still require further investigation?
  • Is the team following processes that don’t deliver clear value?

Through a process of iteration, the Scrum team brainstorm to come up with real-time solutions to take over to the next sprint. Using retrospective ideas, the team populates the four quadrants of the retro template, producing a visual representation of their post-mortem.

Scrum teams can apply the four questions above in other retrospective templates or customize a template to conduct their post-mortems.

Retrospective template options

Team members can choose from retrospective templates to customize their sprint meetings.

Sprint planning can benefit from any of the agile retrospective templates below:

  • The start, stop, continue template
  • The four Ls retrospective template
  • A starfish retrospective
  • Sailboat retrospective
  • Glad, sad, mad
  • Mad, sad, glad

1. Start, stop, continue

In the “start” part of this retro, the agile team looks at the actions they’ll take in the next sprint. “Stop” refers to looking at the recently completed sprint to examine what didn’t work and the actions that the team should no longer take. “Continue” means identifying what worked in the current sprint and should be taken over to the next cycle.

2. Four Ls

Agile teams use this retro template to understand what they “Loved, Learned, Loathed, and Longed for” at the end of the sprint iteration. The team calls out what they appreciate, what the sprint taught them, what went wrong, and what they would’ve wanted more of (coffee, team members, time, etc.).

3. Starfish

Instead of using a retro that focuses on what worked and what didn’t, the starfish highlights degrees of efficiency in deliverables. Teamwork involves rating action items as levels of effectiveness to determine what methodologies they should keep, discard, and apply in the next round.

4. Sailboat

Scrum teams use the sailboat retro to determine their trajectory in unknown waters. Applying the sailboat retro means knowing what approaches inhibit progress, what new approaches will reap desirable outcomes, and establishing a direction for sprint planning.

5. Mad, sad, glad

The mad, sad, glad sprint retrospective is a technique that concentrates on the emotional status of teams. Scrum teams ask each other questions to create positive emotional support. These questions are also aimed at morale-boosting to create a positive atmosphere that supports teamwork and continuous improvement.

The agile retro can follow any template they choose or select one and customize it for their specific needs. Whatever they do, teamwork is vital to the success of continuous improvement.

Decide on your retro template today

Now that you understand how the sprint retrospective template works, you can customize yours for joint teamwork.

Instead of focusing on longed-for outcomes and functionalities, Easy Agile can help your Scrum team move from sad to glad.

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