how long sprint retrospective length

How long should a sprint retrospective take? Incl. exceptions

Many Scrum Practitioners are searching for “How long sprint retrospective”, interested in the typical length of a retrospective. Let’s give you some numbers!

How Long Sprint Retrospective

Typical length of a Sprint Retrospective

To give you one first number, most retrospectives that I participated in lasted between 45 and 90 minutes. But this obviously depends on one thing - how long did you not do a retrospective? Which is oftentimes correlated… to your sprint length.

To give you a simple rule of thumb: For every week of sprint, you plan 30 minutes more in your retrospective.

  • Weekly Sprints: Retro takes 30 minutes
  • Bi-Weekly Sprints: Retro takes 60 minutes
  • Monthly Sprints: Retro takes 120 minutes
  • Quarterly Sprints: Takes 6 hours?! 😄

Okay, no the rule of thumb comes to an end, as you might have guessed. Let’s talk about some edge cases.

how long sprint retrospective length

How long are sprint retrospectives in some special cases?

Quarterly Sprints, 12 weeks, are pretty long (they only make sense for specific circumstances, but that is a different topic). According to our rule of thumb, you might think you should do a 6 hour retrospective in these cases. But that would be too much.

How long sprint retrospective: Quarterly retrospectives

Instead, in my experience as a Scrum Master and Psychologist, I recommend to have a maximum of 3 hour retrospectives, plus a 15 break in the middle. Why? 2 things for your background:

  • Firstly, a good retrospective focuses on developing hypotheses for potential small improvements, small steps.
  • Second, a good retrospective does not create a long term change plan with 10 huge action items for the team. Such plans don’t work anyway. Instead, a good retrospective tries to implement 1 to 3 action items.

Given that, what would you need 6 hours for? 3 hours are more than enough. In case you need more time, think about having retrospectives more regularly 🙂 🙂 .

By the way - the quality of these action items obviously counts. So our post with 7 tips for great action items might be interesting for you.

How long sprint retrospective: Short retrospectives

On some occasions, the team does not have a lot of time. So you might think, let’s do a short retrospective! Well, you can do that, but you should be aware of a few things here. We have some tips for you in our post “Short retrospective - better quick than not at all".

By the way, our Retro & Team Health Check Tool can help you to keep track of the timeboxing in a retrospective – and make the retro more playful and productive. Feel free to take a look (no registration needed):

Conclusion - how long sprint retrospective

I hope you know have a better feeling for how long a sprint retrospective should take. If you have questions about other special retrospectives, we are happy to help!

A big role for the length of a retrospective obviously plays the retrospective format. Given this, our 32 kickass retrospective ideas might also be interesting for you - have fun!

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Take your team on a trip with the Sailboat Retrospective!

First question: "What ⚓️anchors are holding your team back?" Sounds interesting? Try the format in our retro tool: