How to Hold Sprint Retrospective Meetings That Drive Continuous Improvement

Effective sprint retrospective meetings are crucial for consistent improvement over time. Many teams struggle with unproductive sessions that fail to bring about real change. If this sounds familiar, dive in and learn how to turn the tide.


James Moffatt


June 19, 2024

Sprint retrospective meetings go hand in hand with agile methodology, and are an essential aspect of enhancing team performance within these methods. These meetings are a chance for you to carry out a sprint review and figure out what went well, and what could have been better. The result? Continuous improvement via lessons learned from past experiences that can be applied to future projects. Figuring out how best to hold these retro meetings can transform your team from week to week, so let's get straight into it.

What Is a Retro Discussion?

I explained briefly, but in more depth, a retro discussion, or retrospective, is a meeting where agile teams reflect on the most recent sprint or iteration. Your true goal for this interaction is to identify what went well, what didn’t, and therefore, how you can improve any processes involved. Self-reflection, feedback, and a willingness to adapt are all critical for continuous improvement, and are all ubiquitous within great sprint review meetings that drive real positive change to workflows.

What Are Retrospectives for Agile/Sprint Methodology?

Retrospective meetings are common for certain team working techniques. One of these techniques is agile methodology - here, retrospectives are regular meetings held at the end of each sprint (week). These meetings provide a structured opportunity for the team to reflect on their work and processes. Retrospectives are fundamental to these frameworks, as the repetitive nature of this meeting promotes a culture of continuous improvement by creating feedback loops and encouraging the team to openly communicate.

Importance of Retrospectives

A quick side note to clarify why you should bother with sprint planning and retrospective meetings post-sprint. According to the 14th Annual State of Agile Report, 97% of respondents said that agile helps improve project predictability, and 85% said it improves team morale. Regular retrospectives are a key factor in these improvements, especially when teams begin to brainstorm and work out how to consistently fine-tune their work methods. Equally, your retro meeting gives you a point of reference, creating this predictability going into the next sprint/s.

On the note of predictability and meetings becoming a point of reference, I have a tip for improving your next retrospective meeting:

Leveraging Technology for Retrospective Meetings

Using technology effectively can change your retrospective meeting game. Tools like Bubbles Notetaker can be extremely useful, especially in virtual settings and meeting rooms. I reminded myself of this as I wrote about the importance of keeping a record of previous discussions and projecting predictability. Why? Well, Bubbles can automatically join your meetings, transcribe the conversations, record the sessions, and send you a tailored email post-meeting with specific action items. From my experience of using Bubbles in sprint review meetings, I found that no key points are missed across the entire team. Perhaps even more importantly, you are your team members gain a constant meeting recap with Bubbles, due to the automated follow-up emails, meaning there is always a clear understanding of responsibilities and what needs to be done.

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What Are the 5 Stages of a Retro?

Now that we have established what retros are and gone through a few tips, let's get into the nitty gritty of your retro meeting set-up. Effective retrospectives follow a structured format to ensure all relevant aspects are covered. The five stages of a retro are as follows:

  1. Set the Stage: Often not needed once you have a consistent meeting in the calendar, but for first time retro goers, make sure to create a safe and open environment for all team members to share their thoughts.
  2. Gather Data: Collect information from every party about what happened during their sprint. This can include quantitative data (if applicable to your business) and qualitative feedback. Try to combine quantitative data and qualitative feedback here for maximum output.
  3. Find Insights: Analyze the data and try to identify patterns, issues, and areas for improvement.
  4. Decide What to Do: Develop actionable items to address the identified issues and enhance strengths. Remember, if you use a tool like Bubbles, your action items will be determined and generated for you, saving you time and keeping you focused on the meeting.
  5. Close the Retrospective: Summarize the meeting, recap the next steps, and express appreciation for the everyone's participation and effort in achieving improvement.

So, those are your 5 stages to remember when it comes to holding a great sprint retrospective. However, for me, there is one other stage that can often be forgotten - preparation. This is not to say that you need a full template or detailed whiteboard of notes, but doing at least some preparation before a sprint review meeting can be extremely impactful. Here are a few small ideas:

  • Create a Meeting Agenda: Outline the topics to be discussed. Whether this is for your part or for everyone, this will improve your input. Check out our 7 key meeting agendas for inspiration. 
  • Choose a Facilitator: This person is your scrum master and will guide the discussion, keeping everything on track.
  • Set Up Tools: Whether you are using physical tools like whiteboards and sticky notes, or digital tools like Bubbles, make sure you have everything ready to go, so that you don't waste time.

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Tips for Better Sprint Retrospective Meetings

I have given a lot of tips here that will inevitably improve your sprint retrospective, but without the context of how you can openly communicate, for example, you might struggle to take these tips from the page to the meeting room. I will now go into a bit more detail as to how you can set yourself and your team up to ace these skills that I advise you to implement.

Encourage Open Communication

  • Create a Safe Environment: You can only allow great, comfortable communication when all team members feel safe to share their honest opinions without fear of repercussions, so focus on this first.
  • Active Listening: A safe environment involves respect. Once you improve your environment, you will naturally encourage team members to listen to each other without interrupting, keeping things respectful and productive.

Use Data Effectively

  • Quantitative Metrics: Focus on important data and metrics like velocity, burndown charts, and defect counts - make sure to provide a factual basis for the discussion.
  • Qualitative Feedback: The only way to improve in a personalized manner is to collect feedback from team members and gain insights into their experiences and perceptions.

Focus on Actionable Items

  • Specific and Measurable: Don't overestimate the team's capabilities by creating unrealistic action items. Also, ensure that action items are specific and measurable to track progress effectively.
  • Assign Ownership: Create accountability and responsibility by assigning each action item to a specific team member.

Regular Follow-Up

  • Monitor Progress: Try to embrace project management and track the progress of action items. Whether you do this yourself, or use a tool like Bubbles to communicate, make sure you are regularly reviewing and updating the status in retrospectives to come.
  • Continuous Improvement: Rinse and repeat - make retrospectives a regular part of the sprint cycle to continuously improve processes and performance.


Sprint retrospective meetings are vital for driving continuous improvement in agile teams, and must be given the attention they deserve. By following these tips and best practices, you will come away from retro meetings feeling like the discussion was productive and impactful. Regularly reflect on your sessions, and keep iterating with new strategies or technology like Bubbles Notetaker until you create a process that it perfect for your team.

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