Retrospective

Retrospective, [re-truhspek-tiv] adjective

  1.  directed to the past; contemplative of past situations, events, etc.

 

Who has time to reflect back on past projects and evaluate past performance?

Most entrepreneurs I know would enjoy the opportunity to look back at past projects and reflect on what made them work and what went wrong.  But to do so would require precious time that could be devoted to the next project and the next venture.

What Is Retrospective

Although traditionally used as an adjective, businesses have begun using this word as a noun describing a series of meetings that are designed to reflect on a team’s recent performance.

The idea is simple. Whoever worked on a particular project meets at a specified time, (based on either specific dates or project milestones) and the team leader has a structured set of poignant questions.  These questions include what went well, what could have gone better, and what could we try in the future that will improve our work.

The goal of a retrospective is team project improvement—absolutely a great idea.

Benefits

For starters, any action that that can be taken to improve team productivity is a plus for any business.  In a typical retrospective, the items discussed are the items that are current and are top-of-the-mind. This discussion is not a wholesale evaluation of the team’s performance from beginning to end.  All discussions are related to the processes that are going on at that moment, and all adjustments are made in real time.

Secondly, the retrospective causes the team to meet frequently.  In most design processes, things happen quickly, and for a retrospective to work, the discussion about what needs to change has to happen immediately.

Thirdly, team members start thinking early on about actions to improve productivity.  Individual members can accomplish some actions independently, but other actions are taken to the retrospective meetings for further discussion.  These changes are then incorporated at a quicker rate because all team members are engaged earlier in the process.

Finally, the entire team is acutely aware of the problems and recommended changes throughout the entire design process. This awareness eliminates the opportunity to blame any team member or team segment.

Problems

The first problem of utilizing retrospectives is the requirement of having a team.  Many of us work independently or with only a few assistants.

This problem is overcome by understanding that even though you work alone, you also work as part of a larger group, just not in your office, garage, or basement. Most projects have other collaborators and consultants who have some involvement that is tangential to yours. Using technology, it is possible to draw them in to help you hold a retrospective.

Secondly, and heard most frequently, is the loss of design time spent in meetings.  Retrospectives to take time and that time could be otherwise used in working.  John Wooden is credited with saying.

            “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

Once you understand a retrospective is beneficial to the overall project, you will easily be able to make time to participate in a project’s retrospective.

The Bible

The Bible has specific verses about not looking back, such as Lot’s wife (Genesis 19:26) and Paul in straining forward (Philippians 3:13). The intent is to keep your eyes on the goal, to not focus on the past to the detriment of the future.

But the Bible as a whole is a retrospective. We have been given the Bible to see what happened when God’s people did not follow His commands and what happens when His people follow Him.

Just like the Bible, when we gather in retrospective to look to improve project performance, we need to remember what went right and what went wrong not with the intent to focus on the negatives but to focus on how to improve.