As a Scrum master it can be difficult to think of a creative new shiny retrospective every sprint. In this blog post I will take you along in my thought process in selecting a new retrospective, how I come up with my retrospective ideas, and several categories of retrospectives with ready to go retrospectives linked in them!

From retrospective idea to a retrospective

When the end of a sprint is nearing, as a Scrum master it is time to think about the retrospective you are going to host. If you have hosted tens or hundreds of retrospectives you might need some fresh inspiration for some retrospective ideas.

Brainstorming

The first step in preparing a retrospective is to brainstorm. Are there any things that you noticed during the last iteration of your team? I often write things in my notebook I observe during the iteration. When preparing the retrospective I take a look and see if something stands out.

If the team had some issues with stakeholders, a retrospective idea is to find a form that is based on interactions. If there where several critical bugs on production that made the team jump in “emergency mode”, a retrospective that focusses on quality is a good fit.

Brainstorming on new retrospective ideas
Brainstorming on new retrospective ideas

Another angle to look at to find a theme for your retrospective is to take a look at what your long term vision is for the team. Do you notice your team is lacking maturity or progress in a specific area? This can be a good moment to make your team aware, and look for improvements.

Find a retrospective form

When I find a good theme for the retrospective during the brainstorming sessions, it is time to turn that retrospective idea into the perfect retrospective. It is time to look at all the retrospectives you did before, are there any that are a good fit for this theme? It is also a good thing to verify that you did not host this retrospective too recently with this team.

The fun and creative part for me starts when I have no retrospective ready to go. The easy route is to check several websites with retrospectives explained and find one that suits your needs.

The creative alternative is to create a new retrospective form that perfectly suits your needs. Take a theme that the team likes, and build a retrospective around that. A good example of one is the Formula 1 retrospective I hosted a while back.

Retrospective tips

A collection of retrospectives in different themes I personally tried in the past that I can recommend are listed below. I categorize them in general-purpose, fun, soft skills and physical.

General retrospectives

If there are no specifics you noticed for the last iteration, or maybe you did not have time to properly prepare, you can pick a general retrospective without any focus points.

I can recommend the following retrospectives:

Fun retrospectives

Team having fun during a retrospective
Team having fun during a retrospective

If you notice your team is in a bit of a rut, deserves a bit of fun after a long and hard period? Then the category fun might be something for you. I noticed that a fun activity that breaks the ice, and gets the team in the good mood, often yields the best results! These retrospectives combine fun, while still taking a look at what can be improved.

Soft skills retrospectives

Sometimes the focus point of the upcoming retrospective should not be on hard skills. When Stack, bugs and frameworks are not the most important thing that could use improvement, you can pick a retrospective that focusses on the soft skills of the team, or the interaction with stakeholders and other teams. In this category I can recommend the following retrospectives:

Physical retrospectives

If you don’t have a distributed team, you can do a retrospective that requires everyone to be in the same physical room. With the physical aspect in mind, there are some great retrospective ideas you can have to do team building, or have an original out of the box retrospective.

Conclusion

You can take several steps to go from a retrospective idea to the perfect retrospective, in summary:

  • Brainstorm on what the retrospective focus points should be
  • Find a retrospective form that suits your focus points OR
  • Create a new retrospective form that suits your needs

If you are in need of more retrospective ideas, check the category page for retrospectives. Here are all blog posts I wrote about retrospectives.

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