Monday, June 28, 2010

Don’t Forget The Retrospective!

A retrospective is a valuable tool in any organization which values and expects continuous improvement.

A retrospective gives the opportunity to:

• look back and assess;

• consider;

• take everything into account;

• identify lessons learned;

• acknowledge success;

• try to set a better course for the upcoming project, or continuation of the current project;

A retrospective is a chance for the team to improve what they are doing and how they feel about what they are doing. By not holding regular retrospectives, teams are missing out on a valuable opportunity to grow and succeed.

Retrospectives enable whole-team learning, act as catalysts for change, and generate action.

Retrospectives empower team members and allow each and every member of a team to contribute and feel heard. Team members can see how they actively contribute to the increased success of the team.

Retrospectives focus on real problems that affect teams. During retrospectives, teams discover real solutions that they can implement immediately. Note, that it is the team who discover the real solutions. The solutions are not dictated to them from outside the team. This is where empowerment kicks in!

Organization is the key to an effective retrospective. Everyone must be made aware of the manner in which the retrospective will operate and what is expected of each and every participant.

Here are some suggested rules of engagement:

• We will try not to interrupt. (If the meeting is held over multiple sites, please verbally indicate when you are finished speaking – this will aid everyone as sometimes we can think the other person has finished speaking when they have not as we don’t have access to the visual clues.)

• We will accept everyone’s opinion without judgement.

• A reason should accompany each opinion.

• We will accept everyone’s supporting reason without judgement.

• We will talk from our own perspective. We do not try to imagine the perspective of others who may not be in attendance.

Set out the main objective of the meeting, for example, “The main objective of the retrospective is to seek out and understand the perspective and feedback from each member of the team. We will collate all feedback into positive and negative lists.”

Every opinion and perspective is valued!

The collated feedback from a retrospective can then be used to feed process improvement through the next stages of the project or into the next project.

Don’t forget: a retrospective is an opportunity! Don’t miss it!


  1. I think retrospectives should be raised anytime an issue occurs. If its done in official meeting its usual not working because everyone is bored or uncomfortable to present. Its on the spot that is more addressable. Like this works to implement as usual way of doing certain things. If the issue becomes more complex its worth to do an "official" retrospective.


  2. Whether you examine an issue as it occurs, or at particular points in time, really depends on the context and the culture of your organization.

    The formality of the retrospective can be as informal or as formal as you need.

    I believe there is an argument to execute general retrospectives (in addition to dealing with issues as they arise) to give you the opportunity to collect feedback that is more generic and not specific to a particular problem.

    If people feel bored and uncomfortable, then there is an opportunity to improve the manner in which the retrospective is executed.

    Remember, retrospectives are not just about the bad stuff, but also about recognizing the good stuff so you keep doing it.