Retrospective in IT projects is a process of reflection and analysis that takes place after the completion of a specific task or project. It is a practice used in agile methodologies to enable teams to identify what worked well, what can be improved, and what lessons can be learned from past work. Retrospectives allow the team to learn from past experiences. Team members can identify effective strategies and practices that will contribute to increased efficiency in future projects. Retrospectives also enable the identification of any obstacles that hinder or limit their effectiveness.
During a retrospective, the team focuses on three main questions:
What went well? – The goal is to identify actions that yielded positive results or contributed to the project’s success. This can include effective technical solutions, good time management, high-quality code, or effective team communication.
What can be improved? – The team analyzes what didn’t work as well as expected and identifies areas that require improvement. This can involve organizational issues, inefficient processes, communication difficulties, or inadequate collaboration.
What lessons have we learned? – This aspect of the retrospective focuses on learning from experiences and applying those lessons to future projects. The team considers what actions or approaches should be taken to avoid repeating the same mistakes or which practices are worth continuing.
Engaging techniques for effective retrospectives
Good retrospectives in IT lead to continuous improvement of teamwork, problem identification, and finding ways to address them. It is also an important moment for building trust within the team and discussing achievements and failures.
In the Scrum methodology, the Scrum Master is usually responsible for the retrospective. Their role is to ensure that Scrum principles are followed and that the team has the necessary conditions for effective work. In the case of a retrospective, the Scrum Master acts as a facilitator, guiding the retrospective process and helping the team in identifying, analyzing, and implementing changes.
A significant role of the Scrum Master is to ensure that the team is engaged, understands the purpose of the retrospective, and what it aims to achieve. Retrospectives can be interesting and engaging if appropriate methods and techniques are applied. Here are a few ways to make retrospectives more engaging and avoid them being boring:
Fishbowl – The Fishbowl method involves forming two circles. The inner circle consists of selected participants who discuss a chosen topic while the outer circle observes. After a certain time, individuals from the outer circle can join the discussion, and those from the inner circle can move to the outer circle. This technique promotes active listening and allows for the observation of different perspectives.
Sticker Voting – Using this technique, participants are given stickers (e.g., colored dots) and have the opportunity to vote on selected topics, ideas, or issues. Each participant can place their stickers on the board next to the relevant proposals. This method helps identify priorities and focus on the most important matters.
Emotion Timeline – It involves creating a timeline on a board where participants can place stickers representing their emotions and feelings at different points in time. This technique helps the team look at their experiences in an emotional context and identify periods of growth, frustration, success, or challenges.
Mind Maps – This technique involves creating mind maps that visualize different ideas, opinions, and aspects of the retrospective. The central idea is placed on the board, and participants add associations, questions, conclusions, and other elements related to that idea. This interactive tool helps generate new perspectives and discover connections between different concepts.
Process Mapping – The process mapping technique involves collaboratively creating a visual map of the team’s current work process. Participants use sticky notes or a board to present the steps of the process and identify areas that require improvement. This technique allows for better understanding and analysis of the current state of work.
Dynamic Exercises: Introducing exercises or team games can help create a positive atmosphere and increase engagement. For example, you can organize an “Idea Race” where teams compete to generate as many improvement proposals as possible. Other exercises, such as “Another Team’s Point of View,” can be used to stimulate creativity and openness to diverse perspectives.
Rotational Roles: Instead of having a single person leading the retrospective, you can introduce rotational roles where different team members are responsible for leading different parts of the retrospective. This allows for the rotation of responsibilities and gives different individuals a chance to facilitate the discussion and facilitate interaction.
Accommodating Different Communication Styles: It’s important to remember that different employees may have preferences for how they express themselves and participate in discussions. Therefore, it’s worth providing diverse communication methods such as individual conversations, written sessions (e.g., sticky notes), or anonymous surveys to allow everyone to participate freely in the retrospective.
Retrospective as a tool to improve IT team performance
Introducing new and interactive tools in retrospectives can have several benefits for the team. Firstly, it can engage employees by adding a fresh and dynamic element to the process. By incorporating innovative tools, such as digital collaboration platforms, interactive whiteboards, or online voting systems, team members are more likely to actively participate and contribute their ideas and insights. Moreover, these tools stimulate curiosity within the team. When team members are presented with novel ways to conduct retrospectives, it piques their interest and encourages them to explore different approaches. This curiosity can lead to a more open and exploratory mindset, fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement.
Another advantage of using interactive tools is that they support creativity. Visualizing ideas, brainstorming collaboratively, or using gamification elements can spark creativity and help generate innovative solutions to address challenges or improve processes.
During our daily work, we apply various retrospective methods, allowing us to quickly draw conclusions and continuously improve our practices. One interesting method that has proven successful for us in retrospectives is Mind Maps, which we used, for example, in the Hutchinson project. To learn more about the project, please follow the link
About The Author
Izabela is a Project Manager and Scrum Master with 6 years of experience in the IT industry. She has experience in leading diverse projects and effectively managing teams. She's a leader with the ability to create cohesive and efficient teams based on Scrum values. Regardless of the project's scale, she's able to establish a dynamic environment where collaboration, innovation, and delivering valuable products take precedence.