Time to Improve Retrospective

Why Retrospective so important?

Because Retrospective is the best time and place to improve your team. Indeed, the retrospective is not about the number of Story Points completed, KPI reached, or bugs are fixed. It is about healthy team collaboration.

Black mirror

The template of our “previous” Retrospective was copied from the shared folder and used for a long time without any single change. Mostly, slides contained some charts of some numerical results.

Is this Sprint better than previous?
The completion percentage looks Okay.
Log your work!


Our Retrospective was very depending on the Facilitator. In our case, our Manager always did a Facilitator role and always prepare slides, collect the data and presenting.

Not everyone in the team tries to give feedback and without feedback, we don’t know what to improve. — Akrawit Suwansuntisuk


We looked into the black mirror and start thinking about how to change your poor Retrospective. Let’s recap the symptoms of Retro-sickness:

  • In bad Retrospective DATA on the first place, not PEOPLE
  • In bad Retrospective, success depends on ONE PERSON
  • Bad Retrospective can go without PEOPLE

What Would Brian Boitano Do? (c)

Now it is time to talk about solutions. For sure, there is no silver bullet, but I believe that changes that helped us, can also be productive for any other team.

Rotation of Facilitator

To solve “In bad Retrospective, success depends on ONE PERSON”


To solve “Bad Retrospective can go without PEOPLE”

  • Opening — focus the team
  • Collecting the data — overview data sources
  • Going deep — discuss specific data in details
  • Decision-making — find solutions
  • Closing — feedback on Retrospective
  • Opening — Safety Check, E-S-V-P
  • Collecting Sprint data — Happiness Radar, Visualization Board, Sprint Charts
  • Going deep — Good and Bad
  • Decision-making — Action Items
  • Collecting Business data — PO Milestones and KPI
  • Collecting Sprint data — Sprint Charts
  • Going deep — Good and Bad

Retrospective Techniques

To solve “In bad Retrospective DATA on the first place, not PEOPLE”

Safety Check


Example of Safety Check answer

Explorer Shopper Vacationer Prisoner


Example of ESVP question
Example of ESVP answer

Happiness Radar


Draft Happiness Radar
Happiness Radar 2.0
Example of Happiness Radar answer

Happiness radar — good for an opening session because we know the main topics that we should focus on and talk about. — Akrawit Suwansuntisuk

Visualization Board

This is a very engaging way to collect data during a Sprint. It is based on an idea to draw a picture that would be in use as a metaphor for team collaboration. There are many variations of it: Speed Car or Speed Boat, Hot-air Balloon, Open the Box and so on.

Ship — visualization of team collaboration

Action Items

Another one thing worth to mention is Action Items. At the end of the Retrospective (part of the Decision-making step), we plan for small personalized action for very specific tasks. Such tasks must have an exact executor and expected to be finished in the next sprint (time-limited).

Do it!

Basically, the general idea is to experiment and find out what is working well for your team. Control the status with some visual tracker and improves the process to get better results. If something not works — stop it, replace it, modify it.

After many experiments and many approaches, we keep doing Retrospective stuff, that fits the nature of our team. — Akrawit Suwansuntisuk

Take A Look Around

In this part, I collected a few other improvements that also important to mention.

Different one Burn-down

There is no point to look at the logged time if nothing delivered. This is why we replace the Remaining Time Estimate chart with the Story Points Burn-down chart. It is also simply generated by JIRA chart but shows a much more important output.


If peace of your team was never disturbed by the users of the product, possibly, no one uses your product. And then you never faced with operational tasks, such as very urgent, hyper important issues, that you immediately should solve. I am kidding, but anyway you got my point. Sometimes unplanned sh*t happened and you spent your time on something “else” instead of something planned, and as a result, commitments are failed or at least delayed.

Achtung! 17% of Stories time was wasted by Operational tasks

Business overview

The last but not least thing we did was to look around. Many teams working together with us in the Department, so, we decide to talk to others and learn their experience.

Don’t do it!

Retrospective — is not only what to do, but also what not to do. For example, some teams do a Demo of product — we don’t. Good manner to do “Closing” ceremony of Retrospective — we don’t. Some teams do something else — we don’t. You got my point. There are tons of other possible stuff to do on Retrospective. Choose things that fit your team.

Enjoy Retrospective

Rigid is a contra word to Agile. Scrum is based on team agility or flexibility as you know. This is why the selection of the right tools and modification of processes is a continuous way of improvement.



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Vlad Batushkov

Vlad Batushkov


Engineering Manager @ Agoda. Neo4j Featured Community Member. Certified Neo4j Professional. Articles brewed on web, hops and indie rock’n’roll.