January 25, 2021


News for Agilists

GROW Retrospectives — tackling what really matters | by Rodrigo Saraiva | Serious Scrum | Nov, 2020

Retrospectives are part of Scrum core and are the events that allow teams to apply empiricism to become more efficient. Usually, as the result of a retrospective, a team defines an action to solve a problem that was observed at the Sprint or improve its way of working considering that continuous improvement is a key to high-performance teams.

It works all the time, right?


We usually see something like the following scenario:

The Scrum Master creates a board, usually with three columns like start, stop, continue. There are a lot of models with different names for it to make it cooler (mad|sad|glad or liked|learnt|lacked), but deep down all theses models are looking for answers about what went well, went wrong, and what the team should continue to do.

There is nothing wrong with this format, but working with several teams over the years, I observed that the teams repeat the same topics every sprint. Same things to start or stop, continue, etc.

“Our team is communicating very well.”
“The QA server was down, again.”
“John did a great effort to finish that PBI, congratulations.”

Across Sprints, we can see the team struggling with the same issues, and every retrospective just scratching the surface about the real problems. Most of the actions are ineffective or ended lost in the retrospectives documentation.

The problems we can extract from this:

  • Common recipes for retrospectives blocking the team growth;
  • Scrum Values are not being lived by the team;
  • Absence off or ineffective actions.

How can we change this team behaviour, and have more productive and better retrospectives, that will really produce results to move the team in a way to become a high-performance team?

I have experimented to use the GROW coaching model in retrospectives with my teams and this model has shown very positive results.

The GROW retrospective consists of:

As a Scrum Master, you should help the team to define a goal for the retrospective. It can be a problem that the team has, some process or technical improvement that the team should improve, or even relationship problems that are weakening the team.

The important thing about the goal is that the team will focus on one thing to deal with it. This will allow the team to start a retrospective focused and talking about a real issue or problem.

With the goal defined the team starts to talk about the current situation. At this point, it is important that we don’t just put a card in a board and leave it there without a proper discussion.

The team can use a lot of techniques to go deeper, like “Five Whys” to find a root cause for a problem.

The important thing is teams should be encouraged to be open, courageous and respectful when talking about the goal. Thus bring the Scrum Values into play. The team need to understand the situation, causes, and have a clear view of it.

At this point, the team should have a clear understanding of the situation. So it is time to think about how can we solve the problem and improve.

All ideas are welcome. With an open brainstorm and a lot of discussions, the team can choose the best way to work with the problem, or the best strategies to improve their own work.

It is very important that the Scrum Master helps the team asking questions: “What ideas do you have?”, “What information do you need?”, “What things are you thinking that can help you to solve this?”. The team should be challenged at this point to find its own solution.

In this last step, the team should define actions in order to implement the opportunity ideas. With the ideas clear for the team, create actions that will really help is much easier.

The Scrum Guide 2020 doesn’t require that actions should be at the Sprint Backlog. So the team can define action owners and deadlines for them or, if they want, put into Sprint Backlog. This will bring focus.

The entire team should agree and commit to these actions.

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