Have you ever had a bad dream where you keep repeating the same mistake over and over again? For example, showing up for a final exam unprepared, or standing up at a meeting only to realize you're without pants?
What if that dream became the reality of your team? (Hopefully, everyone is still wearing pants!)
If it seems to you that your team keeps making the same mistakes over and over again, it probably is. Fortunately, there is a tool that can help you break this cycle.
Retro — is the gold standard for any high-performance team. It's a way to understand what works, what doesn’t, and what needs to be improved. Making small changes week by week is an investment that quickly leads to exponential improvement in efficiency, productivity, and employee well-being. However, meetings can be challenging without a clear action plan and assistance in the process.
What is a retrospective meeting?
Retrospective meetings are held at the end of a project to help teams pause and think about how to improve future work. It's a safe space for analyzing the successes of the project, identifying opportunities for improving processes, and addressing emerging issues.
The result of a retrospective meeting is usually an action plan to prevent the repetition of the same problems. Retrospectives may seem like a waste when your team is busy with several projects, deadlines are looming, and priorities are pressing. But they are a necessary element of high-performance teams. They provide:
- Creating a safe space for problem-solving in a solution-oriented manner
- Uniting teams to collaboratively solve problems
- Identifying opportunities for improving work or processes
- Documenting the team's achievements and difficulties
- Facilitating the implementation of measures
Retrospectives try to answer the question: How can we improve team performance?
You might already be familiar with the idea of a "postmortem" meeting, where teams look back and analyze a project.
While a "postmortem" is usually conducted if something went completely wrong, retrospectives are held regardless of how the work went. They occur with regular frequency, not just at the end of a project. Teams typically conduct retrospectives every 2-4 weeks.
😥 If the work was hard, retrospectives can help you find improvements.
😊 If the work went well, retrospectives can help you enhance your successes and make them repeatable.
During the retrospective, everything is discussed: frustration in work processes, difficulties in collaboration, irritation due to specific tools. But also gratitude to colleagues and celebrating project successes.
Where did sprint retrospectives come from?
Agile project development is all about continuous improvement. And as such, its ultimate goal is to produce a list of specific steps that will make the next sprint more successful and enjoyable for everyone.
Retrospectives originated from these agile methodologies, such as Scrum, which value short work cycles and regular adaptation.
But you don't have to be a team working on an agile methodology to benefit from regular work improvement. Anyone can conduct excellent retrospectives and create continuous improvement in their work.
Teams typically allocate 30 minutes of time for a Retrospective for each week of work that is subject to review. This means that for a typical two-week Sprint, teams will plan at least 1 hour for the retrospective. We strongly suggest limiting retrospectives to a maximum of 3 hours for a 4-week sprint or 1.5 hours for a 2-week sprint.