Lot of teams don’t give Sprint Retrospective (hereon referred as SR) the time and effort it deserves. We’re so focussed on running the sprint on schedule and doing other sprint activities that SR takes a back seat.
Since SR involves only the team and not the Product Owner. May be that’s why teams tend to take it lightly. Often postponing (or rescheduling) it or skipping it every other sprint. This happens despite teams recognizing the importance of SR!
Often team members don’t have anything to contribute during a SR. And it tends to get boring when people don’t feel they’re contributing or involved. There are of course learnings in every sprint, but if the team was too busy working, they’d probably not recognize the learnings and may not remember them by the time SR happens.
You need the learning/issues from the sprint do be available during SR for it be effective. I like to make notes during the sprint about anything out of the ordinary. An unexpected technical issue, clarifications about any requirement, unexpected meetings etc. Any little thing that we didn’t anticipate.
These little notes serve as pointers for the SR. Each team member can make such notes throughout the sprint when they observe anything amiss or have any idea that can help the team. We tend to forget these things over time and they don’t get discussed on SR. Hence its good to note them as and when they occur. A sprint dairy, if you will!
Lot of these issues may have been reported during daily scrum meetings. The ScrumMaster can add them to his notes after the daily scrum meeting.
Everyone’s notes will help immensely in SR and make it more effective and fruitful for the team. As a bonus, why not start the SR with a small treat to celebrate the sprint gone by (everyone likes ice creams!). Everyone’s worked hard during the sprint and a small treat wouldn’t hurt!