8 signs of an ineffective retrospective

Retrospective is an integral part of many projects, but sometimes not everyone on the team can conduct such a meeting productively. This is especially critical for business analysts who often lead similar sessions. I hope this article teaches you how to make retrospectives useful for the team, the project, and yourselves.

Like any event, a retrospective consists of three stages: preparation, conduct, and conclusion. Let’s delve into each in more detail and explore the main issues.

Preparation for the Retrospective

“Why bother preparing, everything is clear anyway!” Sometimes it may seem that creating a table with columns “What went well,” “What went poorly,” and “What to improve” is sufficient. However, the preparation itself helps address several challenges:

  • Retrospectives do not happen at all 

On some projects, they have never been conducted, on others, there is no Scrum methodology (as the project will last for several months). Sometimes, the team doesn’t see the value in additional process analysis. But a business analyst needs to demonstrate the benefits of implementing retrospectives. You need to analyze the processes and show ways to improve them. Create an environment for comfortable team communication and collaborative problem-solving. Initiate the process. And this is impossible without preparation.

  • Personal blame 

On some projects, sprint retrospectives turn into a search for culprits and a shifting of responsibility. This is the wrong approach. The goal of a retrospective is to discuss work results, not individuals.

  • “Scrum doesn’t work” 

When you hear this phrase from a colleague, you need to prepare especially thoroughly. Determine what they attribute to this assessment and what they aim to achieve from the Scrum methodology. Most likely, the team expects changes that aren’t happening each time. And the problem might not be in the method but in process violations. For example, the team doesn’t define Action Items or implements something incorrectly.

  • “We’re already doing well”

This is said when pathways for development are not seen. But that’s not true! During the preparation stage, you need to gather data showing the team a feedback loop – that there are possibilities for process improvement. Show your colleagues where and how they can be more effective. A project is a living organism in which something is constantly changing. An issue that didn’t trouble anyone in the previous sprint might become a problem next time. Therefore, project analysis is needed again.

Conducting the Retrospective

Typically, two problems arise that reduce the effectiveness of the meeting:

  • Only one or two people speak 

A low level of engagement reflects on the quality of decisions. You need to use various formats and facilitation techniques to ensure the entire team contributes to process improvements. Try Round-robin, where one person speaks in succession after another, as if passing the baton. This way, each participant can express themselves and suggest process and work quality improvement ideas.

  • “We’re doing well, but they…” 

This phrase indicates an immature stance and a reluctance to take responsibility. In such a case, the business analyst should be a facilitator and a psychologist. Don’t complain about circumstances; instead, focus on opportunities to reduce negative impacts on the project. Suggest the team think about what they can do within the existing conditions.

Conclusion of the Retrospective

Even if the previous stages were carried out well, everything can change at the end. What is usually the reason?

  • No Action Items or they are not implemented 

People gather for the retrospective, discuss everything, but then do nothing afterward. The meeting loses its purpose. Therefore, document and implement Action Items. 

  • Nothing changes 

There can be several reasons for this. For example, you might be handling Action Items incorrectly or assigning actions to inappropriate specialists. Analyze each situation and try to find a suitable solution.

Aways remember the purpose of a sprint retrospective. It’s what guides the processes. At the very beginning of your work, define the goal for yourself and the team. Once you understand where you’re heading as a business analyst and where you’re leading the team – achieving the goal will become much easier.

How to properly prepare for retrospective and how to conduct them for new and experienced teams? Dive deeper into the insights we have to offer. Visit nix-united.com and take the next step towards enhancing your business’s success!


Victoria Shapovalova, Business Analyst at NIX.