All posts
How to run a sprint retrospective: A guide for highly collaborative teams
Share this

How to run a sprint retrospective: A guide for highly collaborative teams

Discover the steps to conduct an impactful sprint retrospective meeting—and increase team productivity and output.

Table of Contents

In Agile development, sprint retrospectives are crucial for reflecting on what went well and what didn't during the previous sprint. For example, software company Atlassian–famous for its suite of products like Jira and Confluence–claims that retros help them identify and solve problems more effectively. It's no wonder they've managed to create a culture of continuous improvement and open communication—which are key to building great products.

We get it: People have a lot of unproductive meetings. Yet coming together for sprint retrospectives can be valuable to keep people aligned—and that includes async retros. But you need to be laser-focused to stay on track. That’s why leaders need to know how to run stellar sprint retrospective meetings—so they can build better products, fast. 

In this article, you'll learn how to run a sprint retrospective, including tips to make it successful as well as a free template. You'll also learn how Switchboard lets you plan and host everything related to your sprint in one place, so it's easy to move work forward together and on your own time. 

Want sprint retrospectives that actually foster innovation?
Switchboard unifies all your project work, so you can spend more time solving user problems and streamlining processes.
Sign up free

How to run effective sprint retrospective meetings

There's no one-size-fits-all to running successful sprint retrospective meetings, same with hosting productive sprint planning meetings. The way you structure them depends on specific team and project needs. 

According to former chief product officer, Matthew Goldman, managing member at Totavi, "The point of Agile is having a process and sticking to it almost as much as the process itself." This means you need to be intentional about your scrum process, including the sprint retro, to get measurable and meaningful outcomes. Especially if you're not following Agile methodology by the book.

Here are our two cents on how to run effective sprint retrospectives, so you can find the right cadence and structure for your Agile team. 

Prepare for the retro in advance 

It's crucial to prepare for the retro in advance by enabling people to come ready to contribute. This means organizing and sharing the meeting agenda, creating a conducive environment for open discussion, and ensuring all necessary materials and data are at hand. 

By doing this, the team can dive straight into meaningful dialogue and collaboration during the retrospective, making the best use of everyone's time and setting the groundwork for actionable insights and improvements. 

To effectively prepare for your retro, it's important to cover the following bases: 


Strong preparation involves making sure all relevant participants understand the purpose and value of the retrospective and are encouraged to come ready to contribute. This might include engineers, designers, product managers, and any other stakeholders involved in the sprint. Remember: Only invite people whose feedback is relevant to the previous sprint. 


It's important to set up a unified space where your team can access everything they need for the sprint, including sprint planning and retrospectives. If you're using Switchboard, you can plan and host sprint retrospectives in one place by adding your project management tool, meeting agenda, virtual whiteboard, and sprint retrospective tools to a shared canvas. Then, invite your team and make content accessible before you meet. This way, people know what to expect during the meeting and can prepare notes or ideas in advance—facilitating productive collaboration and discussion.

Sticky notes, PDF, and Google Docs open in a Switchboard room
Switchboard rooms make it easy to share files, tools, and apps and keep work moving without granting access or lengthy integrations. 

Introduce the retro format

To effectively get the ball rolling in your sprint retrospective, you need to select a retrospective format that aligns with your team's dynamics and the specific goals of the session. For example: 

  • What went well, what went bad, action items. Team members address the strengths, weaknesses, and potential next steps from the recent sprint. This format is particularly useful for getting an overview of the team's performance and setting clear objectives to get more done in sprints
  • Start, stop, continue. This is a straightforward format where team members discuss what practices they should start doing, stop doing, and continue doing. It's effective for identifying actionable steps for improvement. For example, a team of UX designers might decide to start incorporating user feedback more frequently, stop overloading sprints with too many tasks, and continue their effective daily stand-ups.
  • Mad, sad, glad. This emotional-centric format helps teams express feelings about their work, categorizing reflections into what made them mad, sad, or glad. It's particularly useful for addressing team morale and emotional barriers to productivity. 

Once you've chosen a format, begin by clearly explaining the process so everyone's on the same page and knows what's required of them. Then, dive into the retrospective's core activity, guiding the team through the steps of the chosen format—in other words, it's time to review the sprint based on your chosen format. 

Review the sprint 

It's the role of the Scrum Master or facilitator to run through the sprint's events and outcomes, guiding the conversation around key achievements and areas for improvement. For instance, if you're using the "Mad, sad, glad" format, you would prompt team members to share experiences or feedback categorized under these emotions. Using the same format example, an engineering team might express dissatisfaction with a recurring technical debt issue, express disappointment about a key feature they worked hard on being deprioritized, or express joy about the successful deployment of a challenging piece of code. 

Make sure to encourage an open and honest discussion and ensure every team member, from developers to designers, has the opportunity to share their perspective.

Pro tip: Switchboard makes it easy to review your sprint and gather insights from your team using sticky notes, document collaboration tools, and polls—on your own and in real time. With a multiplayer experience that lets everyone edit and access room content, you never have to worry about skipping over someone's contribution. 
Sticky notes and a flow chart in a Switchboard room
Switchboard makes it easy to brainstorm and analyze ideas together and on your own time. 

Go over insights and common themes 

Now it's time to identify patterns in the feedback, grouping similar comments or issues to spot common themes. This helps the team focus on significant areas that have a broad impact, rather than getting lost in details. For instance, the retrospective could highlight how well the product team's daily activities and sprint goals align with broader product and business objectives. Or it could emphasize the need for reevaluating the number of tickets they can realistically get done in a sprint. 

Keep in mind that the retrospective can reveal both internal and external improvements or flaws. Whether you glean insights into product quality and user feedback, or communication and workflows, it's all meant to help you engage in continuous improvement and keep projects moving forward. 

Figure out next steps and action items

Once you identify the key areas for improvement, work collaboratively to define specific, actionable steps to address in the next sprint. Assign ownership for each action item to make sure everyone is accountable and takes ownership of the work. For example, if a common theme was that users found a new feature confusing, the design team could commit to developing a revised design or a set of user guides and education materials for the next sprint.

If you're using Switchboard, persistent rooms save your work so you can keep next steps posted on memos or your project management tool. Need a meeting recap? Simply ask Switchboard AI to summarize key action items and the meeting agenda. This lets everyone refer to project timelines and tasks, and check the project's status—in and between meetings.

Switchboard AI features list
Switchboard AI summarizes content and activity in your room so important information and ideas always get heard.

Wrap it up 

Finish off the meeting by summarizing key points discussed, the agreed upon action items, and the owners of each task. Make sure the team feels heard and that there's a clear plan for improvement. It can also be beneficial to end on a positive note, perhaps by acknowledging a team achievement or expressing appreciation for the team's efforts.

Sprint retrospective template

More of a visual learner? Steal the template below to help you better structure your retrospective meeting and ultimately get more done in sprints

Srpint retrospective meeting template

Tips for hosting successful Agile retrospectives

Now that you know how to run your sprint review, let's take a look at how to host a strong Agile retro so you can keep improving after every iteration

Time-box your meeting

You need to allocate a specific timeframe for your scrum retrospective to keep conversations focused and make the best use of everyone's time. While your sprint retrospective duration depends on a variety of factors like project complexity or sprint duration, once you decide on a timeframe it's important not to run over. 

But, according to Goldman, you shouldn't be afraid to end meetings early, "If you're done, just be done. People are more likely to remember their last impression of the meeting than what actually happened—so giving them more time back instead of filling the meeting shows everyone you value people and productivity."

Use a consistent format 

A consistent retrospective format provides a familiar structure, which can make meetings more efficient and easier to engage with. Whether it's "Start, stop, continue" or another method, pick a format that your team finds useful and run with it. 

Make sure to regularly ask the team if your current format is effective or if there are aspects they'd like to change. Adapt based on the feedback you receive to keep sessions engaging and relevant. 

Set clear and concrete action items

Setting clear and concrete expectations and action items benefits the entire scrum team by making sure deliverables get done on time and that resources are effectively allocated for future sprints.  

There are a number of reasons why sprint planning fails, but one of the most common is failing to set clear next steps and action items at the end of a sprint. This is because it makes it harder to understand and predict the scope of work involved, including any carryover items from the previous sprint. Since the success of a sprint retrospective relies on pinpointing real problems or successes, you want to make sure you're not sabotaging outcomes by failing to address issues from your last sprint.  

Impactful retrospective meetings: Drive innovation with a single source of truth 

Sprint review meetings let you gather feedback on processes, tools, and teams, and follow up on issues or strengths documented from your past sprint. They keep teams and projects aligned and can help you spot process improvements with real impact. Just look at all the product success stories at Atlassian. 

Trust us, we know what it means to get bogged down in too many unproductive meetings. But done right, sprint retrospectives can be valuable and help inform upcoming sprints—even if they're not in real time. That’s why leaders need to know how to run stellar sprint retrospective meetings, so they can build better products, fast. For example, steps you can take to run the sprint retrospective involve introducing your retrospective format, reviewing the sprint, and figuring out next steps. 

Plus, when you plan your next retrospective meeting using a Switchboard room, you can keep all the tools, apps, and files you need to work in context in one place. This makes it easier to come prepared and ready to contribute—and move projects forward in your own time. 

Want sprint retrospectives that actually foster innovation? 
Switchboard unifies all your project work, so you can spend more time solving user problems and streamlining processes.
Sign up free

Frequently asked questions about how to run a sprint retrospective

What are key sprint retrospective ideas?

Some sprint retrospective format ideas you can use include: 

  • Start, stop, continue
  • Mad, sad, glad
  • Sailboat
  • What went well, what went bad, action items

What are some sprint retrospective sample answers? 

Here are some sprint retrospective sample answers for a software development team, based on a Start, Stop, Continue format: 

  • Start: "We should start integrating code reviews more consistently to catch issues early."
  • Stop: "We need to stop bypassing the sprint backlog for unscheduled work; it's disrupting our focus."
  • Continue: "Let's continue our daily stand-ups; they've been great for keeping everyone in sync."

Stop, collaborate, and listen

Get product updates and Switchboard tips and tricks delivered right to your inbox.

You can unsubscribe at any time using the links at the bottom of the newsletter emails. More information is in our privacy policy.

You've been added to our newsletter full of tips and Switchboard updates.

You can unsubscribe at any time using the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Want sprint retrospectives that actually foster innovation?

Switchboard unifies all your project work, so you can spend more time solving user problems and streamlining processes.