Agile Retrospectives: The Past and the Future

Agile Retrospectives: The Past and the Future

The team at Catapult Labs loves to run Retrospective sessions. We consider these ceremonies to be a cornerstone of the continuous improvement principle of Agile and always find them helpful to enhance processes and foresee potential blockers based on past sprints or iterations.

We are not the only team that deeply cherishes this Agile practice, as it is one of the most Agile-related searched queries in Google, and it has been at least for the past 10 years. That must happen due to Retrospective Sessions versatility, as they are not only intended to review the past; there are other use cases for these ceremonies, and we want you to leverage them.

Topics to check

  1. Useful Retros for remote teams
  2. Retrospective: Errors Conversation
  3. Futurespective: Strategy DHM

1. Useful Retros for remote teams

We just cannot stress enough how valuable Retrospective sessions can get when rightfully done. Holding one to review each sprint or iteration fosters collaboration to check what can be adjusted or improved, making everyone’s job easier. It obviously requires the team to discuss, but conversations should stay positive and focus on action items to fix any issue. And it can get pretty intimate, as most of your sessions should only be attended by the team working on the project, letting people be more relaxed, open, and critical.

You could think having a distributed or hybrid team located in different zones would make it impossible to have a Retro. Still, we instead suggest you see it as an opportunity. First of all, remember that people tend to interact less while remote, so most of them might be eager to have some kind of gathering to do team building. With the right set of tools, nobody will miss the conference room.

Aside from a video conference software of your choice, we think your best option is to try Agile Retrospectives. This add-on, available both for Atlassian’s Jira and Confluence project management platforms, so it can nicely blend in with your current projects with no disruptions at all. You can try it for free here, and we suggest you start as soon as possible.

One necessary disclaimer to consider is that a Retrospective is not the same as a Post-mortem. Those differ in features such as timing, scope, attending stakeholders, and expected outcome. You can learn more about these differences and tips to get started with Retro sessions in this post we published some while ago.

Back to the main topic: If you are a newcomer, we suggest you check this article on the business value of Retros, so you get a better idea of why to have them. On the other hand, if you prefer something more practical, install Agile Retrospectives and check the following techniques to repurpose your sessions and get different outcomes from them.

2. Retrospective: Errors Conversation

This approach focuses on identifying errors and classify them in two types: Errors of Commission, which occurred because of doing something that should not have been done; and, on the contrary, Errors of Omission, which were caused because of not doing something that should have been done. You can follow the steps depicted in this infographic to guide your session:

  1. Launch Agile Retros in Jira or Confluence.
  2. Add two columns for Errors of Commission and Errors of Omission.
  3. Ask attendees to write their ideas for each column.
  4. Group the ideas per topic and discuss.
  5. Define one follow-up item per column.
  6. Assign the item to a person who will be in charge of making sure it is done.
  7. Export the items as Jira or Confluence issues and follow them on your project's board.

As you can see, the focus of this technique is to understand all the issues and its root, classified in boolean criteria. Remember that you should always keep positive and understand that mistakes are inherent to any project. That is why you must be prepared to prevent or quickly mitigate any, which is the primary value of this Errors Conversation.

3. Futurespective: Strategy DHM

What if you use a Retro to plan for the future? As paradoxical as it might sound, Retrospectives can easily be transformed into Futurespectives to try to foresee the future events that could affect the development of any project or product. The expert consultant Ben Linders has this great, straight-to-the-point definition: “A Futurespective is an Agile Retrospective where you start from the goal to find ways how to get there.”

Suppose you want to start practicing with this review of the future. In that case, you could try the Strategy DHM, which will help your team understand how your following product can Delight Customers, have Hard to Copy Advantages, and can Increase the Margins of your organization. Just follow the steps in the image below:

  1. Launch Agile Retros in Jira or Confluence.
  2. Add three columns for Delight Customers, Hard to Copy Advantage and Increasing Margins.
  3. Summon the representatives for Product, Customer Support and Finance.
  4. Ask attendees to write their ideas for each column.
  5. Group the ideas per topic and discuss.
  6. Define one follow-up item per column.
  7. Assign the item to a person who will be in charge of making sure it is done.
  8. Export the items as Jira or Confluence issues and follow them on your project's board.

These two techniques are a great path to explore what Retros can do for your team improvement practices and get comfortable with the usage of the Agile Retrospectives add-on. You can also take advantage its unique features, such as:

  • Use its anonymous setting to prevent it from showing who wrote the ideas in the columns. This can be useful when discussing difficult subjects.
  • Limit the number of ideas or votes that each attendee can cast.

If you think you need a little more guidance on how to use the tool, you can take a look at the official documentation:

Please take a look at the following video walkthrough for further guidance:

If you have any specific questions, you can drop us an email at

Also, feel free to reach out through our social networks, listed below. We are always happy to support you to achieve great things.

Are you adopting or looking to improve your Agile practices? Is your team remote? If your answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, you should check out our products for distributed teams. We focus on making communication more effective and easier for remote teams.

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