Agility, Change management, Guidance
The Scrum retrospective – explanation and practice

Table of contents

The Scrum retrospective – explanation and practice

A retrospective – what is that?
How do you improve collaboration within your team?
How do you find out what the current problems are?
Learning from disagreements and mistakes in collaboration – how do you and your team manage this?
We introduce you to the retrospective: This is a technique from the field of agile methods that also works if you do not otherwise use agile tools. – So it’s definitely worth reading our article.
At this point, we take the liberty of switching from you to you, as agile communication focuses on you and you are increasingly receding into the background.


Where you can use retrospectives

Perhaps you know this from working in teams. Some things go really well, but some things go really wrong. Especially when there is pressure in the team, you rarely take the time to stop and talk about how you could do things better. The mood is more likely to be irritated or blame is apportioned, but this rarely improves anything.
Things are very different when a team manages to regularly put its foot on the ball and look together from a helicopter perspective to see how cooperation could be improved.

The retrospective – what is it?

The retrospective is a meeting that became known from agile software development with Scrum, and has exactly this purpose: after each work cycle (sprint), i.e. approximately every 1-4 weeks, the result of the sprint is discussed as well as how to improve the way the team works. Over time, this becomes a matter of course and teamwork improves in the long term.
Of course, you can also do a retrospective if you are working on something other than software as a team. Even if you are not using agile methods, it is helpful to have regular team meetings to discuss how we work together. The more unfamiliar or new tasks – outside of the daily routine – there are in the team, the more important it is to conduct regular retrospectives.

What are retrospectives for?

Retrospectives brings a lot to the table:
  • This establishes a continuous improvement process for processes and workflows
  • Unclear responsibilities are uncovered and clarified
  • Misunderstandings can be avoided or clarified, and any frustration that has arisen is quickly resolved
  • The team spirit is strengthened, making work more fun and the team more productive


Retrospective Meeting


What is the setup of a retrospective?

How long does a retrospective last?

Retrospectives can last 1-3 hours, depending on how often they are conducted. Make sure that you do not plan too little time, because it is very unsatisfactory if important topics can only be touched on and not clarified due to time constraints.

Who should be there?

If possible, all team members should be present. However, we advise you to ensure the regularity of the retrospective by scheduling fixed dates, even if not everyone can attend. Of course, this also depends on the size of the team. If the customer is actively involved, it also makes sense to invite customer representatives from time to time. Especially if the cooperation has not gone entirely smoothly.

What else is needed?

You definitely need someone to moderate the meeting. The more emotional the meeting can become, the more important it is to have a neutral moderator. In Scrum, this is the task of the Scrum Master. If the retrospective is a regular routine in your team and is usually constructive, the moderation can also be taken over by one team member in turn.

Which techniques and tools are helpful?

Work with moderation techniques that visualize the results! Each team member should have the opportunity to participate with the help of moderation cards. If not everyone can be present in person, i.e. the meeting is taking place entirely or partially virtually, tools such as a jamboard help to make the moderation visible to everyone.


The 5 phases of the retrospective


The 5 phases of the retrospective

In the following, we describe the five phases that a retrospective can have. Below you will find suggestions for moderating the individual phases.
  1. Set the Stage/ the intro:

    The intro welcomes you and sets the framework, for example how much time is available. The rules of the game are also reminded once again. The moderator will create a positive atmosphere as a prelude and thus lay the foundations for a good retrospective. Visualizing the current mood is also an important aspect of “Set the Stage”.
  1. Gather Data/ collect data:

    This is where you collect all the data you need to evaluate the collaboration. This can be “hard data”, for example error frequency, quality data or the burndown chart, but it can also be team members’ assessments of what they have found helpful or critical. Cluster the various topics and prioritize them to see which ones you would like to work on further.
  1. Generate insights/ gain insights:

    The aim here is to work on the individual points in greater depth. What are the causes of difficulties? How can you solve them? Don’t be tempted to skip this phase, as it is existential in order to develop helpful measures in the next phase that solve problems sustainably and not just superficially combat symptoms.
  1. Decide what to do/ decide on measures:

    In order to ensure commitment in the retrospective, specific points are decided here, responsibilities are defined and a timeline is provided.
  1. Close the Retrospective/ Closing:

    At the end there is Feedback on the retrospective itself. This helps the participants to conclude the meeting and the moderator to make the retrospective even better next time.


Methods for the retrospective


Methods for the five retrospective phases:

If you moderate your own retrospective, make sure that you don’t always use the same methods. If you make the meeting varied, it will also be more exciting and fun for your team members. Below we have selected a few methods for each phase. There are, of course, many more.
  1. Set the Stage/ Preparing the Retrospective

Here you will find some methods to depict the mood in the team.

Points/ crosses

Points on a team barometer or a bar chart. This allows all team members to position themselves quickly. The result is a good basis for discussion.



The following method is fun: ask the team members to draw smileys on a manderine or a boiled egg, depending on how satisfied they are with the last iteration or the current status of the collaboration.


the team members line up in a circle. The moderator reads out statements for the team members to position themselves on. If they agree, they move towards the center of the circle. If they do not agree, they move outwards to the extent that they reject the statement. Statements can be, for example:
  • I think I can address topics openly in this round
  • I am happy with our current collaboration
  • I am satisfied with the quality of our work


Generate Insights in the retrospective with Scrum


  1. Gather Data / Collect Data:

Here are some methods for collecting and prioritizing feedback from team members.

The four L’s

Everyone writes cards for the following four questions:
  1. Was ich geliebt / what I loved
  2. Was ich gelernt habe / what I learned
  3. What I lacked / what I lacked
  4. Wonach ich mich gesehnt habe / what I longed for
    The results are then summarized in small groups and important fields of action are derived from them. At the end, you can rank the fields of action in order of importance.

Learning matrix

For various aspects that are important for the team, the sub-items
  1. ? (went well)
  2. ? (did not go well)
  3. ? (What ideas do I have?)
are collected.
Here, too, you can score points again afterwards so that you know the most important fields of action.


Bar chart retrospective start


  1. Generate Insights / Gain insights:

In this phase, you start with the most important fields of action. Set yourself a fixed time to work on a field of action and decide how many fields of action you want to work on. Don’t go for completeness, as this may overwhelm or bore the group. Also does not create a topic memory. If a field of action that has not been dealt with is important, it will reappear in the next retrospective. You can use the following techniques in general or in relation to a field of action.

“The worst we can do”

everyone writes on sticky notes what you could do to make the next iteration a disaster. When all the notes are on the wall, stand in front of them and discuss the topics. In the next phase (measures), the statements are transformed into the opposite.


Everyone has a sheet of paper in front of them and writes down the ideas they have. These can be thoughts about the causes or ideas for solutions. After 3 minutes, everyone passes their hand to their neighbor and receives a new one from their neighbor. Everyone reads through their neighbor’s thoughts and writes down ideas for another 3 minutes. However, they must not be ideas that he has already written. Let the leaves rotate until everyone has had all the leaves. Then hang up all the sheets and identify the best ideas by scoring them. You can generate measures from this.
  1. Decide what to do / decide on measures:

    When deciding on the measures, it is important that you have defined things in concrete terms: What will be done? Who is wearing the hat? Who is he doing this with? Until when? With Scrum, these points are included in the backlog. If there are topics that everyone is doing from now on and also recurring, then write them down as a concrete commitment from everyone and check how the team is doing in one of the next retrospectives.

Circle of Influence

Sort the topics from the previous phase into the three circles of the Circle of Influence. Define measures that you can influence as a team.


Circle of Influence

Circle of Influence



Draw a circle on the metaplan wall and divide it into five pie slices, which you name as follows: Start, Stop, Continue, Do More, Do Less. The team members write down their suggestions for measures on sticky notes and hang them in the five boxes. By scoring points, you can find out which measures the team would like to implement.
Starfish technology for retrospectives

The Starfish technique for retrospectives

  1. Close the Retrospective/ Closing:

    Depending on whether you want to obtain concrete feedback or just a picture of the mood in this phase, you can choose methods in which everyone says something again, or in which a visual picture of the mood is simply collected for the retrospective.


Everyone says a sentence about how they felt about the retrospective. You should insist that it really stays at one sentence.

Mood picture

“What did you think of our retrospective?” On command, everyone stretches their hand forward at the same time, using their thumb as a mood barometer. Thumbs up means “great”, thumbs down means “bad”, thumbs to the side means “so-so”.
We wish you successful retrospectives for your collaboration. We are looking forward to your feedback. And if things get more challenging, we as the berlin team will of course be happy to moderate your retrospective for you.
If you want to delve deeper into the subject of Scrum, agile tools and agile leadership, we are at your disposal with
  • Lectures
  • Workshops
  • Coachings
  • Advice and action
  • Support during the transition to agile leadership/ agile organization

gladly at your side!

You can also find more tips for retrospective formats at

The authors

Oliver Grätsch
Michelle 550
Michelle Templin
Christian Grätsch
Matthias Beikert
Susanne Grätsch
Monika Bt 550x550
Monika Steininger
Kai Hübner
Philipp Andresen 500x550
Philipp Andresen
Anna Isabell Arendt
Dr. Claudia Schmidt
Inga Kühn
Kassandra Knebel
Claudia Lehmann
Komplettes Team

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