How Having Bad Agile Retrospective Meetings Can Sink a Team

Ben Staples
4 min readApr 21, 2021

Originally published on www.RetroRabbit.io

Retrospectives are easy to overlook as sources for team optimization and improvement. A lot of people talk about the downsides of not having retrospectives at all, but there are definitely problems that can come up if your retrospective meetings are run in the wrong way.

Here are three things that teams currently running retrospectives can be challenged with. If you think your team might be running into any of these problems; it is time to stop, think, and target areas for improvement.

1. The team can’t celebrate wins

A common problem with feedback across the board, including 1:1 scenarios as well as team retrospectives is a focus on constructive feedback to facilitate growth. Yes, it is easy to always ask for constructive feedback and focus on what needs to be fixed. This focus drives clarity around what needs improving versus what is going well, and feels the most productive. But only considering areas of potential improvement during your retrospectives can lead you and your team down a terrible path towards no-morale city. Population; teams that have absolutely no fun at work and hate their lives.

One of the most common retro formats, “What went well, what didn’t go well, what puzzles us”, lists the positive first. It is incredibly easy to start there. And sure, I do believe it is the norm (at least for the teams I have been a part of, to have more retrospective notes that cover the latter two categories around things to improve than the first positive “what went well” category. It also seems to make sense to spend most of your team’s time focusing on points of improvement, but the positive can’t be overlooked!

A retrospective with nothing good, no celebration, and no recognition can make a scrum team a dull place. Not celebrating wins can bring the team morale down, reduce productivity, and worst of all lead to attrition. Don’t let it happen. Make sure to make your retrospectives a place where all wins, big and small, can be recognized.

2. The team can’t inspect what is happening

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Ben Staples

Ben Staples has over 7 years of product management and PMM eCommerce experience from at Nordstrom, Trunk Club, and Vistaprint . Currently based in Chicago IL