It’s been a while since I last facilitated an all remote retrospective. Below is an email I sent out to the team I’m currently working with to help us prepare for our first “retro” together. We’ve since held the retro and it went well overall, so I thought this prep and guidance might be useful for others to iterate on.
On Tuesday we’re going to have a Project Retrospective (aka “retro”). In my experience, retros are hugely beneficial opportunities for teams to learn and grow.
Please take the time to read the rest of this email. It outlines how the retro will run. In order to make the most of our time, it’s best to come prepared.
- Learning jointly – From each other’s different perspectives, feelings, and current thoughts about where the team is at since launching the project.
- Taking action – Based on learning together, we identify where we can most benefit from improvement and take action.
- Strengthening the team – We’re in this together. By listening, learning, and taking action on what we’ve learned, we develop a stronger bond that is bigger than “just the work”.
Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job he or she could, given what was known at the time, his or her skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.
- Be respectful
- Be present (no phones, no “side chats/conversations”, no browsing, etc.)
- Everyone gets a turn to speak
- No interrupting
- No judgement on feedback (use “I statements“)
Before The Retro (between now and when we meet)
Please take time between now and when we meet to think about the following in relation to your experience and/or what you observed during your time with the TGE project:
- What you want us to continue doing
- What you’d like us to start doing
- What you’d like us to stop doing
You can add your items to this doc, which we’ll use as part of the retro: Google Doc
Check-in: We’ll go around the call and have everyone provide one word for how they’re feeling in the moment. Have trouble coming up with a word for how you’re feeling? I know I do sometimes! Try this to help identify a word: https://verbaliststravel.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/the-language-and-vocabulary-wheel-for-feelings-verbalists.jpg
Part 1) We’ll use the “Before the Retro” section above to guide the initial discussion. What we want to: continue, start, and stop doing. If you haven’t added your items to each area, we’ll have a short time for everyone to add to each list.
Part 2) We’ll go through each item and open it up for questions/clarification. I will do my best to encourage open, focused discussion that honors our time.
Part 3) Everyone gets 3 votes per area to put against the items they think we should take action on now, not later. You can apply more than 1 vote to an item if you feel that strongly about it.
Part 4) Identify the top item in each area and determine next steps (which can be as simple as identifying an owner to drive the action post-retro). …But what about the other items – aren’t they important too? Yes! But focus is key. Just because an item isn’t made “top priority” doesn’t mean it won’t see progress in the future.
I’m accountable for ensuring the 3 items we identified to take action on make progress. Don’t expect miracles. Some things require a a fair amount of determination over a period of time to show results. My commitment is to continue to provide visibility to the items and help move them forward. Expect this to be part of our weekly meetings, even if it’s just a quick update.
Check-out: Everyone on the call gets a brief (30 seconds or less) opportunity to express closing thoughts/feelings now that the retro is at a close.
Looking forward to learning and improving with you all!