Engineering Analytics

What is a Sprint Retrospective Meeting?

Arnaud Lachaume
Tom AzernourLink to author's LinkedIn profile
January 31, 2023
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Goals and Principles of the Sprint Retrospective Meeting: What is so special about them?

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“You have ten minutes. Let’s get this done, people!” 

Has anyone ever said this to you? 

It’s a classic line that you no doubt have heard at some point in time, due to its appearance in hundreds of different movies.

However, it’s also one that’s frequently uttered in a corporate environment — used to inspire your employees and motivate a team into action. 

Why? To get something done by a certain deadline.

See, while it’s pretty much impossible to work at maximum productivity all the time (our brains just aren’t built for it), it’s easy to push ourselves in short bursts.

Leaders have caught on to this knowledge and have started to apply “sprint retrospectives” to their day-to-day operations.

When you encourage an employee to throw themselves into a task and get it completed as quickly as possible, this is called a “sprint.”  

Whether you give them one hour or one month… The same scenario applies and often requires lots of sprint planning.

A sprint retrospective meeting, then, is a gathering of employees to carefully analyze the work that was completed in the assigned time frame and discuss: 

  • What worked? 
  • What didn’t? 
  • What can be improved on?

These are all questions that a leader will ask the attendees of a sprint retrospective meeting with the goal of making the process as efficient as possible. That way, you can continue to drive high performance.

Why Run a Sprint Retrospective Meeting?

Unfortunately, sprints aren’t easy to do and can be exhausting for anyone under constant time pressure.

It’s universally recognized that any type of hotbox situation pushes people to their extreme; often forcing employees to work at maximum capacity for longer than is healthy. 

So, although these bursts of productivity are incredibly useful for a leader who wants a job to be completed by a certain deadline… It doesn't mean they are free of challenges.

That’s why, if you use sprints, you should always be reflective of your approach and open to making improvements. 

How? Through a sprint retrospective meeting.

The Most Important Part of a Sprint Retrospective Meeting

One of the most crucial things you need to remember about sprints is that, sadly, they aren’t miracle workers. 

If your team has been working on a project for days without making progress due to a lack of creativity, they aren’t suddenly going to feel inspired when you start the timer. In fact, you might make the situation even worse.

Sprint retrospective meetings, then, allow you to evaluate the circumstances around your sprint and decide if it was actually useful. 

Going forward, you can:

  1. Assess if you’re pushing your team too hard.
  2. Adjust how often you organize sprints.
  3. Decipher who thrives under pressure and who crumples.
  4. Identify when breaks are needed.

With this in mind, a sprint retrospective meeting isn’t something you should avoid. You need to be proactive about conducting one following every sprint. 

This is where it gets tricky. 

When Is a Sprint Retrospective Meeting Held?

Experts recommend that you conduct a sprint retrospective meeting immediately after a sprint, but this isn’t always practical.

It can be incredibly time-consuming and, although a project might be over, that doesn’t mean there isn’t other work to catch up on.

Therefore, you should consider a method of collecting productivity metrics in the moment that can be evaluated at a later stage — when it suits your organization. To do this, you could ask employees to fill out an (ideally short) questionnaire on whether or not they:

  1. Made conceivable progress compared to normal.
  2. Felt comfortable during the sprint.
  3. Are proud of the work they produced.
  4. Believed the sprint made a difference to their workload.
  5. Would be happy to continue attending other sprints.

This will give you clear, ongoing insights into your employee’s mindset and give you the best possible chance of making the most of your sprint retrospective meetings.

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Who Participates in a Sprint Retrospective Meeting?

Depending on the project you’re trying to complete with your sprints, the standard attendees for a sprint retrospective meeting will change. 

In general, though, the team involves a member of senior management, a selection of relevant mid-level employees, and any additional stakeholders. 

Sprint Retrospective Meeting Example

For example, if you’re a software development firm who’s quickly approaching a deadline for a finished product to be submitted and enforced a sprint as a result, you might invite the following personnel:

  1. Product manager
  2. Software developer
  3. UX/UI designer
  4. Data analyst
  5. Scrum master

Additionally, regardless of your industry, you could also include someone from HR to take notes and make suggestions accordingly. Their priority is to keep your employees happy and healthy, making them a good addition to your sprint retrospective meeting.

The Typical Length of a Sprint Retrospective Meeting

A sprint can last as long as you want it to. 

If you’re able to motivate your employees to work at their absolute best for weeks on end (without burning out), then you should take advantage of that. While the general rule of thumb suggests a 45-minute sprint retrospective meeting following a two-week period of high productivity, we recommend an hour to give you more time.

However, at the end of the day, your schedule really depends on:

  • How much you have to discuss
  • Who you’ve invited
  • Whether or not you each have the time to spare

While sprint retrospective meetings are indeed important, and therefore shouldn’t be foregone entirely, they shouldn’t be disruptive to the effectiveness of your organization. 

Remember… The goal is to help, not hinder.

How to Lead a Sprint Retrospective Meeting 

When it’s time to start a sprint retrospective meeting, you need to form a list of priorities. 

1. Choose your attendees

Before you can even launch into the topics of discussion, you have to get the right people in the right place by aligning employee schedules. Be sure to choose people who are confident in their position with you and would be willing to share honest feedback that’ll guide your decision-making. 

2. Set the agenda

Once you have a good idea of who you’d like to talk to, you can start to explore the different questions you want to ask and the points you want to make. This should be supported by any data you’ve collected along the way that you want to share with your organization and, more specifically, attending employees.

3. Recap the sprint

When everyone is gathered in one place, you should start by going over the sprint and the results that were produced. This is a great opportunity to boost morale and acknowledge specific workers that stood out to you. From there, you can identify further strengths and weaknesses.

4. Facilitate all feedback

After you’ve gone through everything on your list, you should open the sprint retrospective meeting to questions from your attendees. Be careful with your responses and try to avoid being defensive in the face of valid criticism. Remember, sprints are tough. It’s completely normal to face some resistance.

5. Make urgent changes 

Some businesses facilitate sprints in unique ways. For example, they reduce the number of communication channels accessible to an employee during certain hours so that they can focus on their work. However, this can be a hindrance in making progress in a project so you should be prepared to make adjustments.


What do you do in a sprint retrospective meeting?

You shouldn’t always have to lead the conversation. Once you’ve set the agenda and made it clear what you want to discuss with your employees, give them the chance to speak and express their opinion. This will give you much more useful insight into what improvements need to be made.

How to handle a sprint retrospective meeting?

When staff members are stressed and tension levels are high, arguments may arise. If this happens, be patient and do your best to see things from their point of view. Give yourself some time to reflect on what’s been said and deal with it in an appropriate manner.

What should you say in a sprint retrospective meeting example?

Most importantly, you should focus on the positive results that were produced during your sprint. You could say, “we’ve done some amazing work this week,” and start to highlight specific parts of the project that you are really proud of. You could even reward teams that have gone above and beyond.


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Our innovative analytics platform is designed to collect and process organizational productivity data as you work, presenting it in a way that gives you a clear roadmap to action.

The results we provide can be especially informative to a company when you’re approaching a deadline and plan to conduct a sprint retrospective meeting.

Rather than making guesses about what you should fix, you’ll be able to pinpoint specific data points that can inform your future decisions and protect the well-being of your employees.

Want to learn more? Download our sprint progress report template or request a demonstration today.