Skip to content
On this page

Key Concepts

Sprint Retrospectives

makes the team process more effective and enjoyable ✌️ ​

Main principles

Two main principles:

  • The main outcome of sprint retrospective is NOT to air about your complaints, but functions as a tool that allows you to stay on track and bring everyone back to these three central questions: What did we do well? How can we improve? What helped us move forward?
  • The retrospective meeting should be a safe space for you to expose ideas and come up with solutions.
  • As best practice, remember to set the stage and ensure that people are reminded that is not a process of blame, but for identifying areas for change. ​ ​

Ground rules

  • As best practice, remember to set the stage and ensure that people are reminded that is not a process of blame, but for identifying areas for change.
  • Don't make it personal, don't take it personally
  • Only focus on the previous sprint
  • Avoid dicussions about features, focus of the process on how the team created those features
  • Try to improve a little each sprint instead of trying to bring big changes at once.
  • The meeting is timeboxed ​ "Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand." ​


​ How do we do this? ​

Check-in (aka Icebreaker)

​ We ask for a check-in from each team member before starting the sprint retrospective. It sets the right tone. There are multiple ways to do this: ​

  • Describe the sprint as if it were a … You ask everyone to describe the latest sprint as if it were a movie title, an action hero or villain, or even a historical event. ​
  • One word The participants are asked to use one word to describe how they feel about the last sprint, write that word on a sticky note and post it on a whiteboard. ​
  • Two truths and a lie Each team member shares three statements about the team, sprint, or anything else they want to talk about. Two of those statements should be true, and one should be false. ​
  • Emoji The participants are asked to use an emoji to describe how they feel about the last sprint. ​ ​


​ We use multiple frameworks to run a sprint retrospective: ​

Quick retrospective

This is easy to use with newer of inexperienced teams. The Quick Retrospective dives straight in, asking the team direct questions about the sprint: what was good and what was bad, then capturing ideas and actions from the team. It’s a good starting point for new teams who are not experienced with retrospectives because it’s easy to understand and use. ​ Steps to execute:

  1. Let the team create post-its for the two first columns (what was good and what was bad)
  2. Ask for ideas
  3. Let the team create action item post-its from the ideas
  4. Let the team vote for the action items
  5. Make someone responsible for the action items with the most votes ​


​ Start Stop Continue is a simple retrospective technique for an action-oriented retrospective meeting that encourages participants to come up with practical ideas for team-based improvement. You can use this framework if you want the the entire team to focus on creating a list of concrete actions it can take to improve and if you want to look back at the previous sprint (stop & continue) while also looking forward to the upcoming sprint (start doing). ​ Steps to execute:

  1. Let the team create post-its for all three columns (What should we START doing, what should we STOP doing, what should we CONTINUE doing)
  2. Group similar ideas
  3. Let the team vote for the actions in each column (3 votes per team member)
  4. Make someone responsible for the action items with the most votes ​


​ MAD/SAD/GLAD is a quick and easy format to use during your sprint retrospective. Is requires little preparation, it’s easy to understand and it allows the team to reflect on the positives and improvements from the last sprint. As the title already reveals, the stages of this format are the following: ​

  • MAD: What are you mad about from the last sprint? What drove you crazy, or did you really hate?
  • SAD: What made you sad in the last sprint?
  • GLAD: What made you happy in the last sprint? What went good, what did you like? ​ Steps to execute:
  1. Give everybody some time to write down their MAD, SAD and GLAD and discuss afterwards. If you take this approach, you want to ask everybody to write down at least 1 – 2 post-its. Afterwards, depending on the amount of post-its, you can do a dot voting to identify the most hot topics and start the discussion on one of those.
  2. While having the discussion on a topic, always focus on what’s within the control of the team. Don’t focus too much on external people or factors, but mainly on the things that are within the control of the team to identify improvement actions that the team is able to take. You want to have 1 – 2 action items at the end of the retrospective that you can implement in the next sprint(s). ​


​ The Sailboat is a picture template that uses a sailing boat metaphor to help a team visualise their goal and how they get there. This is a framework that you can use with more experienced teams and mostly when you feel a team is veering off-course. ​ The Sailboat retro asks the team to pretend they are on a boat travelling through the sea. It combines backward and forward-looking elements that ask a team to assess what is holding them back and pushing them forward towards their goal. The wind, rocks and anchor are metaphors for things that help or hinder the team, while the island represents the goal. ​

  1. Start with asking the team to write what they think the overall team goal is, and place their sticky notes on the island. Group similar sticky notes and discuss
  2. Ask the team to start thinking about the current sprint. What was an 'anchor' holding the team back, and what was 'wind' pushing the team forward?
  3. Ask the team members to write their ideas and place them in the anchor or wind sections
  4. Move on to the final section: what hidden rocks are coming up, and could ground the ship?
  5. See if there are common themes you can make
  6. Hold a voting session to uncover the three most important themes
  7. Brainstorm and discuss solutions and actions for the top themes
  8. Group the solutions and hold a voting round
  9. Decide an owner for each of the top three actions

Once a project has been underway for some time, or at the end of the project, all of the team’s permanent members invests in a detailed analysis of the project’s significant events.


  • Retrospectives should be facilitated by someone external to the team.
  • The main goals of milestone retrospectives or project retrospecive is broader than the goal of a sprint retrospective. These include long-term strategic viability of the project and healthy work relationships among team members and governance concerns.