Is Your Team Good at Improvement? Scrum Retrospectives

By: David Hawks | Nov 26, 2013 |  Agile Tools,  Article,  Scrum,  Team

bar graph showing continuous improvementThis is the second post in our Scrum Assessment Series. A continuous improvement culture is the most important thing for a team to establish early.

Where does the team land on the scale below?

  1. Team does not care about performance
  2. Team is aware of performance
  3. Team discusses issues
  4. Team identifies improvements
  5. Team takes responsibility for improvements
  6. Team is allowed slack to make improvements
  7. Team benefits from improvements
  8. Team continually seeks improvements
  9. Improvements are recognized and appreciated by organization

Facilitating effective retrospectives on a frequent cadence is key. We highly recommend the book “Agile Retrospectives” by Esther Derby and Diana Larson to learn good techniques when facilitating your retrospectives.


The Basics:

  • Did the whole team attend? Including the Scrum Master and Product Owner?
  • Are no managers are present? No stakeholders? (This is a good thing!)
  • Is there one after every sprint?
  • Is it timeboxed to roughly 1 hour for every sprint week?
  • Did the team discuss the facts from the Sprint? Burndown? Release Progress? Key Metrics?


  • Are Retrospective action items tracked during the next Sprint for progress?
  • Do Retrospectives really lead to improvement?
  • Does everyone on the team engage in discussion?
  • Were the top issues discussed to reach the root cause?
  • Were 1-3 actionable goals set as the top priority?
  • Did the team discuss how they were going to ensure a change happens?
  • Did the team focus their time on what they can do better?
  • Did the team have open and honest communication?
  • Were everyone’s ideas listened to?
  • Were real issues discussed?


  • Do Product Owners and managers allow team slack to deliver improvements?
  • Does the team demonstrate the desire to continuously improve?
  • Does the team demonstrate the courage to try something radical?
  • Do changes lead to significant improvements?
  • Was there healthy conflict?
  • Were good things discussed? Did the team share appreciations?
  • Did the session foster shared team ownership?
  • Did the team demonstrate courage in their ideas for improvement?

Ideas for Improvement:

  • Mix it up. Try something new. Don’t let the format stagnate the discussion.
  • Start with appreciations to foster a culture of respect and trust.
  • Encourage the team to be courageous in their ideas.
  • Leverage Deep Democracy techniques to get everyone involved.
  • Define Team Agreements on how the team is going to handle conflict in a healthy way.
  • Don’t just focus on process items, spend time on building team chemistry.
  • Start retrospectives with a Prime Directive if ensuring positive thinking and reducing blaming is needed.

View other posts in our Scrum Assessment Series.

Please share some ways you have improved your Retrospectives.

Get a more serious look at how well your teams are learning from their experiments, with our Agile assessment services.

One Response to “Is Your Team Good at Improvement? Scrum Retrospectives”

  1. There is lot’s of great stuff in these posts on the scrum assessment series, thanks David!

    Actually the first thing that you mention in the list “good” is a very important one. Many teams fail to take action, overwhelmed to the daily work. Making improvement visible really helps!

    BTW: I’ve added a link to your series on my list of Agile Self-Assessment checklists and tools at

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