Retrospective: Project or Release retrospective

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The Project or Release retrospective

This retrospecitve format is designed to do at the end of a project or release. You can also use this format at the end of a sprint, if you like. In this specific example, the retrospective was designed for a project called “Mollie”, which you will also see in the template. You might want to replace some of the pictures with ones that are more relevant for your project.

The Icebreaker

The suggested icebreaker for this format is a quick one to get a sense of the general feeling that the team has about the project or release. Ask everybody to describe the project or release using only one word. You can ask for additional details  after everybody wrote down their word, but try not to go into too much detail just yet, as this will follow in the next phase of the retrospective.

The goal is to get everybody engaged and focused on the retrospective, so they are not being distracted by other work. 

The retrospective format

The project or release retrospective consists of 3 stages:

  1. “Went well:” what went well during the project? What did you like? What should we do again next project?
  2. “Challenges:” what was challenging or difficult during the project? What made you or the team struggle?
  3. “Do differently:” if we could start again with the project, what would you do differently?

You want to give everybody a few minutes to write down some thoughts on post-its. After a few minutes, you can do a quick dot voting session to determine the most important items and start discussing them.

While having the discussion on a topic, always focus on what’s within the control of the team. Don’t focus too much on external people or factors, but mainly on the things that are within the control of the team to identify improvement actions that the team is able to take. You want to have 1 – 2 action items at the end of the retrospective that you can implement in the next iteration(s). Remember: you will not always have big live changing action items in each retrospective. That’s also not the intention. A small action that brings a small improvements is already very good. Try to improve a little each sprint instead of trying to bring big changes at once.

About last retrospective...

A crucial part of the retrospective is to reflect on the outcome of the previous one! Teams often forget to do this, but it is very important as it gives the team the confirmation that the action items are actually important… And that we want to make sure we improve! There is a section on the top of the template where you can refer to the action items of the last retrospective. Go over them, see how you are doing in regards to them, and decide what to do next.

Rate your retro!

At the very end of the retrospective, I ask the team to quickly rate their retrospective with focus on: 

  1. Did we have a good discussion? Did we speak openly, and respect each others opinion?
  2. Do we have valuable action items? And, are we confident that we will do them in the next sprint?

We also use a feedback wall where team members can share their feedback on the retrospective. As the facilitator, you can encorporate this feedback into the next retrospective session.

Other things about the format

On the very top of the format, you can see 2 elements:

  • Action items / experiments: this is the place where you would write down the action items during the retrospective. This makes it easy to summarize them at the end of the session.
  • Idea for the next retrospective: I always like to foresee an area where people can give feedback or give input for the next retrospective. This can be feedback on the current format, ideas for a new format, tips, general feedback… Anything that can help us make the next retrospective even better! I would not make it required for people to give input in this, make them feel free to give input when they come up with something.

Download the template (for free)

You can download the Miro template for free below:

If you don’t have a premium version of Miro, you can also download the picture at the top of the screen and create the board in Google Drawings.

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