The Methodology of a Sprint Retrospective Meeting

Get sprint retrospectives right and your team will improve every single sprint. Stick to these steps to transform your team

November 14, 2022
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A sprint retrospective meeting is a simple and effective way of revealing golden opportunities to transform your team into a well-oiled machine.

But they can turn into anything from a total waste of time to a full-blown argument if you don’t get them right. 

Read on to discover the methodology of a sprint retrospective meeting to make sure you’re getting the most from this powerful productivity tool.

What is a sprint retrospective?

A sprint retrospective is a meeting that takes place at the end of a project. Teammates spend some time looking back on the sprint they’ve just finished and discuss what went well, what didn’t go so well, and what they can do to make the next sprint better.

Try Assembly to make setting up a sprint retrospective after every project as simple as possible in your organization.

Who attends sprint retrospective meetings?

Everyone involved in a sprint should attend the retrospective. Including everyone – from designers and engineers to marketers and product managers – in the meeting will ensure no stone gets left unturned when it comes to finding ways to run the next sprint more efficiently.

So, be sure to make it clear that every member of your team needs to consider the sprint retrospectives they’re invited to must-attend meetings.

What do you say in a sprint retrospective meeting?

To get the most valuable insights from your team retrospectives, make sure you center the conversation around these simple but effective questions:

  • What went well?
  • What could we do better?
  • What will we commit to improving in the next sprint?

If you and your teammates come to every sprint retrospective willing to share their honest thoughts on these three questions you’ll quickly discover how to work as effectively as possible together.

What sprint retrospectives should do

Get your sprint retrospectives right and you’ll walk away from each one with invaluable insights you can use to improve the way your business operates.

To help you make sure every retrospective is productive, let’s dive into the do’s of running a sprint retrospective:

Give everyone a voice

Every team is made up of people who are happy to speak their mind and others who need coaxing out of their shell. And your loudest team members are naturally going to be the ones dominating your sprint retrospectives.

And that’s not all bad, since it shows those employees are certainly engaged. But when the same handful of people do all the talking, you’re not going to get the diverse perspectives your quieter teammates might bring to the table. 

It’s therefore crucial you make sure everyone feels comfortable sharing their honest feedback on what went well – and what didn’t go so well – during your latest sprint. Fail to do so and you’re not likely to get the kind of feedback that could transform the way you approach your next sprint.

Whoever’s leading the retrospective needs to make sure they invite quieter employees to contribute their thoughts. A lot of your shiest colleagues will appreciate being given a chance to speak their mind without getting bulldozed by their more outspoken colleagues – especially if you step in if someone starts interrupting or speaking over them.

Book a demo of Assembly to empower your employees with all the tools they need to have their voice heard.

Roses, buds, and thorns

The ‘roses, buds, and thorns’ exercise is a great way to make sure you’re hitting the main points of a successful sprint retrospective. 

Here’s how it works:

  • First, go round the room and ask everyone to mention at least one positive from the latest sprint. These are your “roses”.
  • Then ask your teammates to discuss the budding opportunities they spotted. These are your “buds” – the things that could turn into roses if you nurture them.
  • Lastly, ask your colleagues to mention the things that didn’t go so well during that sprint. These are your “thorns”.

Follow this simple format during your retrospectives and you’ll leave each one with a list of things you should double down on, things you should focus on bringing out more, and things you need to go back to the drawing board on.

Ask people to come prepared

You’ll gather a lot more actionable insights if everyone spends a bit of time thinking about the points you’re going to touch on before they head to a sprint retrospective. 

So, be sure to ask each of your teammates to spend a few minutes before each one filling out a team retrospective template with their thoughts on the three main things you’ll be covering: what went well during the last spring, what you could be doing better as a team, and what you can commit to doing to make the next sprint better. 

Document action items

Providing your people with a platform to share their thoughts on what they think works and what doesn’t in their job is a great way to give them a voice and boost employee engagement. But the key to a successful retrospective is coming away with actionable data – then actually implementing it.

So, be sure to turn the good, the bad, and the ugly feedback from your team into action items. Of course, you can’t put all of your teams’ suggestions in place, so you’ll need to prioritize them based on what’s going to make the biggest difference to how effective your team will tackle the next project.

Book a demo of Assembly to make it as easy as possible to capture and action on the feedback you receive in your team retrospectives.

What sprint retrospectives should not do

You’ll also want to steer clear of these sprint retrospective don’ts to make each one generates as many actionable insights as possible:

Don’t treat it like a box-ticking exercise

Every sprint retrospective meeting is an opportunity for your team to learn how to work better together and achieve its goals more effectively. 

But if you treat them as a box ticking exercise and just go through the motions when you’re looking back on how the project went rather than push each other for insights into how you can improve, you may as well not waste your time on them.

As a leader, you need to make sure your teammates understand these meetings are their chance to have their say in how you approach each sprint. And that fact is: they’re only going to be motivated to open up about what they think should be changed if you follow through on implementing the changes they suggest in your retrospectives. 

Failing to do anything with your teammates’ feedback is a surefire way to keep their feedback to themselves. So, make sure you’re transparent about how you’re implementing their ideas and what the outcomes end up being to keeping them engaged in the progress – and the ideas coming.

Don’t play the blame game

Discussing what went awry during your latest sprint is an essential part of an effective project retrospective. But you need to be careful that part of the meeting doesn’t descend into the blame game.

To keep things productive, ask your teammates not to make complaints personal – even if they’re about an individual. 


“We need to be better at letting each know if we're not going to hit a deadline.”


“Adam needs to start letting me know if he’s not going to get his work done on time.”

You should also ask your people to make sure to keep their criticisms constructive. 

That means avoiding statements like:

“This project was doomed from the start. Who’s idea was it anyway?”

And phrasing criticism a bit more thoughtfully instead by saying things like:

“I think we need to spend more time researching how viable a project is before we commit to it”

Wrapping up

Get your team retrospectives right and you’ll find your team working more effectively together after every single sprint. In fact, if you stick to the steps we’ve laid out here your people will be transformed into a well-oiled machine in no time.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Assembly SOC 2 compliant?

Yes, at Assembly, security is a top priority. Each quarter, we have ongoing security work that is everyone’s responsibility. While we maintain a strong security posture, it was important for us to prove to our customers that we do everything we claim to do. This led us to pursue a SOC 2 Type II report that would provide evidence of our compliance with industry gold-standard security practice.

What's the ROI for employee recognition?

There is study after study showing that employee recognition leads to increased engagement. This in return creates an environment where employees are happier and more motivated which increase productivity and reduces voluntary turnover significantly. In order to filled critical roles, companies tend to spend nearly twice the value of an annual salary. Assembly is an investment in your employees that supports your bottom line.

Does Assembly offer longer-term contracts?

Yes, we will offer contracts for companies with longer-term agreements to help larger customers have more certainty around future costs.

The minimum agreement term is a 12-month subscription.

Does Assembly offer onboarding support?

We do and for FREE! Any new customer needing further support to get started with Assembly to ensure you're set up for success can request custom onboarding support. Improving your employee experience is about much more than just using our amazing software; it’s about transforming your business to create a workplace that people love. That’s much easier to do with the personal support and advice from our passionate people experts.

Is there a free version of Assembly?

Yes. We offer a completely free plan for up to 50 team members. This plan is intended for teams or organizations that are looking to get started with an employee engagement tool. Keep in mind, this plan is limited in features.

All customers can open an Assembly account for free and get started without a credit card. Then you can change plans as necessary.

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At the time of redemption (when your employees exchange their points for a paid reward) you'll pay face value. If a reward is a $10 Amazon gift card, your cost will be $10. All paid rewards are billed for on a monthly basis.

The good news is that you don't have to pay for rewards upfront because we only charge you when points are redeemed, not when they're earned.

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We offer discounts or educational or charitable organizations. In order to secure a discount, you'll first need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

For all other organizations, we are willing to consider longer-term agreements in exchange for discounts. To set up annual plans or longer, you will need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

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Great question! You can customize your core values to match your organization's to boost and track alignment. You can change your currency from the 🏆 emoji (our default) to any emoji of your choice. You can swap our logo for your own. You can also set up company culture rewards such as, "Lunch with the CEO," "Buy a book on us," and so much more!

Who can give or receive recognition?

While we recommend a peer to peer set up where anyone in your organization can give or receive recognition, you can set up Assembly however you want. If you need to limit the people who can give or receive recognition, that's perfectly fine and can be done from your Admin, here.

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Assembly connects to the tools your employees use every day to offer an easy, seamless experience with minimal change management.  

Assembly has integrations with HCM/HRIS systems like ADP, Google, Office 365, and Slack. We also integrate with communication tools like Slack and Teams so you and your employees can access Assembly wherever they work now.

What's your average adoption rate?

That depends on the company's permissions set up. That said, over 90% of the employees on Assembly's platform are recognized on a monthly basis. That means nearly every employee across all of our customers are receiving regular recognition from their peers, managers, or leadership. We're extremely proud of this.

Must rewards be set up to use Assembly?

They are not required. You can use Assembly without having rewards set up. However, we don't recommend it if you intend to have a high adoption and usage rate. You can always keep the costs down by offering internal culture rewards that are fulfilled by you internally.

Are points required to use Assembly?

No, you can remove allowances from anyone or everyone. It's up to you but we do recommend using points whether they're worth a real dollar value or not. Companies that use points have a much higher engagement rate even if those points don't exchange for real dollars.

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