.st0{fill:#FFFFFF;}

Why Even Bother Having Retrospectives? 

 February 21, 2022

By  Anthony Amos

Retrospectives are not bitching sessions. Or are they?

Do the preparation necessary to structure a meeting that is productive while ensuring the team has the ability to improve. The Scrum Master needs to have the skill and ability to do this; otherwise, any Retrospective will be a waste of time.”

Tony Amos

Retrospectives are a huge waste of time when the team has no intention or ability to make changes. A Scrum Master’s responsibility includes making retrospectives productive for the team, and an effective Scrum Master would not let a Retrospective devolve into a bitching session.

It is pitiful, but oh so common for teams to go through the motions of Scrum. It sounds like your team is doing just that: Follow Scrum steps, and then respond with amazement at the low level of improvement. Scrum is not a series of steps, it is a mindset, and following the steps without the mindset is a consistent formula for failure. Treating Scrum as a series of steps also worsens everyone’s performance because they work on project tasks while being distracted by a false Scrum effort.

Your follow-up statement is also all-to-common. It is true that project tasks compete for priority with Retrospective action items. But, tasks are not so important as to exclude retrospective actions. This is similar to everyday life: It is important that your car perform reliably, but it won’t if you don’t take time for routine maintenance. It is important that your home be comfortable, but it will not if you don’t take care of repairs. It is important that you are productive at work or school each day, but you won’t be if you don’t eat or sleep. It is important that project tasks be completed, but they won’t if you don’t take time to improve your process.

Running a Retrospective requires Scrum Master skills that are not taught in a 2-3 day Scrum Master course. To make an effective Retrospective, a Scrum Master needs to have had experience or coaching, so that they can structure sessions that will be productive for everyone. Of all the Scrum ceremonies, the Retrospective is probably the most challenging. It requires the ability to keep people engaged and focused toward a goal rather than simply complaining.

So to answer your question, if you intend to put out the fire, you leave the Napalm behind! Do the preparation necessary to structure a meeting that is productive while ensuring the team has the ability to improve. The Scrum Master needs to have the skill and ability to do this; otherwise, any Retrospective will be a waste of time

Read more about managing Agile Teams here.

Anthony Amos


Anthony started creating software in 1981 when he curiously picked up the programming manual for a Wang OIS Word Processor while deployed with the US Navy. He had never seen a computer before, but he taught himself how to write programs that made his Navy work easier and more accurate.
After his honorable discharge in 1986, he began creating financial and analytical software for diverse organizations including Verizon Wireless, JP Morgan Asset Management, GoldenTree Asset Management, NASDAQ, Prudential Insurance, AT&T Capital Corporation, Lehman Brothers, Ernst & Young, and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of New Jersey.

Demonstrating his commitment to the principles and values of Agile Software Engineering, Anthony is a recognized SAFe® version 5 Program Consultant and holds many of the most challenging and difficult to attain Agile certifications. His practice is grounded in Agile Frameworks as he leads clients to implement Scrum, Kanban, Scrum with Kanban, Scaled Scrum with Nexus, and Scaled Agile Framework. He believes in using the framework that best fits the organization's cultural and business direction while maintaining disciplined processes.

Tony Amos

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Subscribe to our Agile newsletter