What is wrong with Sprint Retrospectives?

Asad Safari
2 min readFeb 28, 2023

Continuous improvement is at the core of most Agile frameworks, with ceremonies such as sprint retrospectives serving as a formal way to commit to gradual improvement. But what about the human factor?

🔦 Recently, I came across a video by Dave Snowden stating, “We don’t actually remember events as they happened if we wait to reflect, as people tend to describe the past through the lens of the present’s political context.”

🔗 I can relate to this, as I’ve experienced similar situations in my Agile teams. Despite having a successful sprint, a problem might arise on the last day of the sprint, causing tensions to rise and affecting team morale. During the sprint retrospective, team members often become demotivated and fixate on the negative event instead of focusing on the positive aspects of the sprint.

📌 This highlights the truth in the statement, “People describe the past in terms of the political context of the present.”

✏ So, how do you deal with this human nature in your teams? Is it just a matter of improving facilitation skills?

To address this issue, I conducted simple experiments to integrate learning into our daily routines rather than waiting for bi-weekly retrospective meetings.

⚗ At the end of a recent product backlog refinement meeting, I asked two questions as the facilitator:

1️⃣ How would you rate the value of this meeting on a scale of 1 to 10? (1 being a waste of time and 10 being an excellent and valuable meeting) (2 minutes)

2️⃣ If your score is not 10, what would have to happen for you to give it a 10? (5 minutes)

🔷 The responses allowed us to gauge the effectiveness of the meeting and determine whether any changes were needed. If the average score was below 6, we knew that significant changes were required, or we had to question the need for the meeting itself. If the score was above 7, we could make small improvements based on the ideas shared by the participants.

🔵 By making learning a routine part of our daily work activities, we are creating a culture of continuous improvement that empowers us to identify and address issues promptly and effectively. In the coming weeks, I will continue to conduct experiments and share my lessons learned with you.

Please share your own experiments and ideas for further experimentation.