Agile Retrospectives and Project Postmortems – Are they different?


Project Retrospectives give the project team to review what was done correctly and what was done incorrectly in the project execution. In traditional project management, project retrospectives (also known as Postmortems) are conducted at the end of the project which is too late to help. As against this Agile Retrospectives are carried out at the end of each iteration. Hence the agile retrospectives are iterative and incremental. This helps the team to inspect and adapt in-between and quite often.

Broad Activities carried out in Agile retrospectives:

  • Reviewing work carried out in the last iteration
  • Discussing and outlining the personal and team issues
  • Discussing what worked well during the iteration
  • Finalizing and agreeing on what needs to be changed (Improvement strategies)
  • Finalizing the plan for implementing the changes
  • Agile retrospectives are done at the end of each iteration
  • It gives team the opportunities to inspect and adapt iteratively and incrementally
  • This helps in team find and fix the problems in time and effectively.
  • This helps in continuous improvement and short feedback loops.

Just to reiterate and summarize, the difference between Agile Retrospectives and Postmortems is as given below:

  • Postmortems usually occur at end of the project (or even dead), when it’s too late to plan and implement any improvement on that project.
  • Agile retrospectives occur at the end of iteration.
    Postmortems are generally long feedback loops.
  • Retrospectives are done once per project.
  • Agile Retrospective occur at the end of every iteration and hence are short feedback loops.
  • Postmortems sometimes turn into blame game.
  • Agile retrospectives are carried out iteratively. This ensures the issues are not allowed to be blown out. They are controlled and the project performance is improved. As a result of this the blame game is avoided.

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