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Simple Retros in a Nutshell

Agile teams hold retrospective meetings to reflect on their performance at the end of each iteration. All are in time-based intervals to encourage progressive improvements in projects. Each looks back at the previous sprint’s successes and failures to adjust and further solidify your strengths for greater efficiency and productivity.

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, many teams are moving towards permanent remote work. One pressing question now is how to manage retrospective meetings of the same level given a new working reality. What more can scrum masters and project managers do along with their agile development teams to organize remote retrospectives while meeting all their assigned goals?

Luckily, there are various agile retrospective formats to choose from. Each format has its advantages and disadvantages, so you need to think carefully before choosing one as your choice can significantly alter the culture and workflow within your project. And given the new way of work, teams need to think wisely about which agile retrospective format works best for them.

The simple retro format is highly effective for individual teams in this unprecedented era. It gets to the point directly while implementing improvements and considering your team members’ opinions.

Keep reading to learn more about the simple agile retrospective format, its pros and cons, and why you should implement it.

Simple Retro Basics

The simple agile retrospective format comprises three parties: the scrum master, Scrum team, and product owner. The objective is to collect feedback about the team’s shortcomings so far and work to improve them.

It is divided into two parts: Plus and Delta. The Plus represents what’s working, while the Delta represents what needs to change. You can include things like successful collaborations, processes, strategies, and conversations in the Plus column. Similarly, you can list points such as any roadblocks, frustrations, demanding clients, etc, in the Delta column.

The scrum master initiates the retro by asking the team to list down the successes and weaknesses of the last sprint. Each team member anonymously writes their opinion on a sticky note and hands it over to the scrum master.

To engage the team, the scrum master can ask the following questions:

  • Which actions did you find helpful?
  • Which actions did you find confusing?
  • How can the team be made more effective?
  • When did you feel the most engaged?
  • When did you feel the most frustrated?

Either the team members or the scrum master arranges the notes in the appropriate column on a retro board. Then, the entire team votes on the relative importance of each point and discusses ways to resolve them in that order.

Simple agile retrospective format meetings should ideally last between 60-90 minutes for a two-week sprint. But the duration can be shorter or longer depending on the sprint’s length.

Teams can directly list down the strengths and weaknesses of the last sprint to progressively improve the project through the simple agile retrospective format. There are no biases as it’s collaborative and provides each team member with the option to state their opinion anonymously.

Given remote work these days, scrum masters can easily organize such meetings online without any compromise on the quality of work.


The simple agile retrospective format comes with its sets of pros and cons. First, let’s take a look at the pros.

Helps Find Preemptive Solutions

By laying out the strengths and weaknesses of the previous sprint, the team can identify problems and address them before they affect the next sprint. Such foresight prevents a cascading effect from happening that could jeopardize upcoming stages of the project.


Encourages Teamwork and Collaboration

Through meaningful discussions among the team members and scrum masters, each individual gets the opportunity to share their experience and insight. Not only do these discussions boost engagement, but they also increase a sense of ownership among the team as every individual is provided the space to express themselves.


Helps in Planning the Next Sprint

Simple agile retrospective format meetings help formulate a clear plan for the next sprint. Since the team discusses a prior sprint’s performance in detail, they have more clarity on how to execute the remaining stages of the project. 


Identify Risks

The simple agile retrospective format also helps the team identify potential risks in the project. Through detailed discussions on each sprint’s performance, they’ll have a better idea about the red flags and possible trouble points. This identification helps them take appropriate and timely action to prevent new or existing problems to surface later on in the project.


Builds Trust in a Team

Through open and honest discussions after each sprint, any communication gap between the team disappears and they can trust one another, as well as value one another’s opinions.



Disruptions in the Working Process

Since the simple agile retrospective format works to progressively improve the project, implementing changes in ongoing processes may disrupt a team’s routine whether it needs disrupting, or not. Some sudden changes could derail a sprint. Retros done right and without outside influence should not have this problem, so get out of your developers’ way.

 May Frustrate Team Members

Team members responsible for specific issues may feel attacked or frustrated if the problems are not discussed diplomatically.

Bottom Line

At the end of the day, the simple agile retrospective format puts a team in control of its own working methods. It emphasizes teamwork. After all, it’s the team that decides which points to discuss and find solutions.

Choosing the most appropriate retro format streamlines your workflow and your team’s performance. So you have to understand your team to decide which agile retrospective format will suit them best. Moreover, it would be best if you also involved your team in the decision-making process as it will make them feel heard and build buy-in.

While there are many agile retrospective formats to choose from, the simple retro format is highly successful as it allows teams to reflect on work completed, learn from their errors, look for innovative methods to achieve their goals, and vent out their frustrations before the next sprint in the most basic way possible.