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What is retrospective?

Definition: A retrospective is a structured agile team meeting held after a completed project to highlight successes and reflect on areas to improve. The goal is to improve the planning and structure of future projects and manage the backlog.

Retrospective meetings are usually associated with Scrum project management methodology.

Retrospective meeting overview

1. What were our goals and objectives?

A retrospective meeting starts by discussing what the project goals and objectives were and whether they were achieved or not. 

Meeting goals questions: 

  • What were the goals of the R&D team?
  • What were the goals of the ML and development team?
  • What were the goals of the marketing team?

Potential questions to ask for the project in general:

  • Are you happy with the finished work? 
  • If yes, why? 
  • If no, what made you disappointed the most?
  • Did everything go according to plan?
  • What was the biggest roadblock?
  • Was communication between teams effective?

2. Project analysis

In this stage, teams reflect on the course of projects. This can be done by following a detailed project timeline, or by answering the two crucial retrospective questions:

  1. What went well?
  2. What didn’t go well? 

Team members discuss data points and share their opinion on the project development process. 

Potential questions to ask about what went well:

  • How can we replicate this process in the future and ensure it works again?
  • Can we document it and create SOPs?
  • What was the most satisfying part of the project?
  • What part of the project that went well could’ve easily gone wrong, and why?

Potential questions to ask about what went wrong:

  • What part of the project was the most dreadful and difficult? Do you have any idea how it could have been easier?
  • Which process was the most frustrating?
  • What went wrong but could have been easily avoided?
  • What did we leave unresolved and why?
  • What did we compromise?

3. Why?

Once the problems and successes of the project are highlighted, you should answer why something went wrong, or why something went well.

For a retrospective to be successful, everyone should express their honest opinion without constraints. To achieve this, team members can submit their opinions anonymously before the meeting.

4. What next?

After the success and failure, causes have been determined, that information is used to create informed decisions for future project planning — the goal is to eliminate unnecessary friction, and bottlenecks, and streamline processes.

For a retrospective to be effective, the team must sort priorities and determine which items are the most important to work on.

Potential questions for key takeaways:

  • If we were to start this project again, what would you do differently?
  • What did you learn from this project, both personally and as a team?
  • What are the three most important things we must solve before moving forward?

5. Assign action items

Based on the priorities determined in the previous stage, the project manager will assign action items that ensure mistakes are eliminated in the future. 

Example of retrospective meeting

Retrospective meeting agenda:

  • Meeting goals (3 minutes)
  • Project review – discuss project goals, execution, and results (10 minutes)
  • What went well? (5 minutes)
  • What went wrong? (5 minutes)
  • Why – open discussion (30+ minutes)
  • What next?

Running the retrospective meeting:

Hypothetical scenario

Company AI XYZ is holding a retrospective meeting after they have launched the beta of the AI content tool. 

Project goals and results:

The goal of their project was to launch the beta version of the AI content tool by the end of Q3 and monitor the initial user response. 

The team was late, and beta was launched by the deadline, but still very unpolished. 

The marketing team met its goals, and a more-than-expected number of users signed up for beta before its release. 

Initial user response was mediocre, with many submitted tickets for improvement.

What went wrong and why?

  1. R&D team pushed too much workload and ideas on ML and development team.
  2. Project manager failed to estimate how time-consuming each task was. 
  3. ML and development team blindly accepted the workload and realized the mistakes too late.
  4. Marketing team wasn’t in touch with the development and project team.

What next?

  1. We should focus on one thing at a time.
  2. Development team needs to get better at estimating how much time they need to complete tasks.
  3. Marketing team has to have better communication with other teams.
  4. Project managers must be more involved in the process.

How can Mindmesh help with retrospectives?

You can plan a Retrospective in Mindmesh, and invite team members to attend:

You can create a retrospective meeting agenda in Mindmesh and share it with other participants:

After the meeting is over and action items determined, you can assign action items to each team member:

You can also organize your tasks in Kanban, create a to-do list, or simply use Mindmesh for time blocking:

What is a retrospective meeting in agile?

A retrospective is a meeting held after a product is shipped to discuss its successes and failures. And to spot mistakes and find ways to improve them.

What should be included in a retrospective meeting?

  • What were the successful aspects;
  • What could be improved on;
  • What went badly and should be stopped.
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Article FAQs

What should not be discussed in a retrospective?
Arranging the backlog for the next sprint should be avoided because they reduce the value of the meetings.
When should a retrospective meeting be held?
There’s no general answer for this, but teams who prefer longer sprint times may need a retrospective once in two months. And teams with shorter sprints can opt for once or twice monthly.
How long should a retrospective last?
Retrospectives usually take 60-180 minutes — breaks included. The length depends on the project’s scope — the more complex project is, the longer retrospective will last.

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