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How To Run Retrospectives and Why You Need Them

Introspection, self-assessment, and feedback are all integral aspects of productive, happy, and healthy teams. 'Retrospectives' are a great way to structure this thinking, allowing both individuals and teams to self-assess the barriers and drivers of productivity, performance, team cohesion, engagement and culture.

At Cosmic Centaurs, we host monthly retrospective meetings to evaluate what is working for us, what we can do better, and how we can maintain tempo or progress. To help you and your team do the same, we have developed a free worksheet to help you establish this ritual and guide you through the process.

Before we dive into the 'how' it's important to remember that a retrospective is not designed to measure the effectiveness of outputs, rather,

a retrospective is a ritual that promotes a culture of change, accountability, a healthy and structured feedback loop, and a framework to measure personal progress.

Here's how we recommend implementing retrospectives to help you and your team consider what aspects of performance and contributions are meaningful, and where improvements can be made.

1. Start with yourself

An easy way to familiarize yourself and the other members of your team with how retrospectives work is to try out the framework for yourself. We recommend getting comfortable and ready for some reflection. Check out our favorite mellow playlist on Spotify, it may help get you in the zone.

Once you're ready, ask yourself the following questions and fill in the table below:

It's important to keep an open mind during this process. You may face some harsh realities about the barriers inhibiting you from achieving your potential so be prepared to reflect honestly. You can add as many items as you want, just make sure that whatever you set out to do is realistic and attainable.

2. Test & Iterate

Once you have made a list of the changes you want to make, give yourself 30 days to implement the changes. You can set reminders every week to review the sheet and make sure you're on track.

After a month has passed, set time aside for another retrospective and see what progress you have made. If something has not worked, reflect on why that is and what you have learned from it. If there are any changes you set out to make but were not able to implement, break down the changes into smaller sub-tasks to drive progress.

3. Team Retrospectives

Retrospectives are especially valuable for teams, allowing groups to collectively learn from their shared experience working and collaborating together. Retrospectives are a great way to familiarize teams with both giving and receiving feedback as well as promote continuous improvements in the way teams collaborate and communicate.

To run these effectively, we recommend first asking team members to complete the first part (individual retrospective) on their own. Once they have completed at least one cycle and are comfortable with the concept, bring everyone together over tea, coffee, snacks (or zoom!) and be sure to specify whether the group is reflecting on general contributions and performance, or a project-specific experience.

Share the below table with them and facilitate a discussion around the following questions:

4. Leave the room with an action plan

The purpose of a retrospective is to give the team a clear actionable set of tasks that they can proactively complete, in order to drive improvements in their collective intelligence and output.

Before you wrap up the meeting, make a list of 4 or 5 action points and clarify who is responsible for seeing them through.

Review that list at the beginning of the next retrospective to keep everyone accountable.

5. Stick to it!

If done consistently, retrospectives can be immensely helpful to individuals and teams. Whether you host these monthly, bi-weekly or at the end of each project, the easiest way to stick to this ritual is to appoint a retrospective champion.

This individual is responsible for ensuring that these meetings are scheduled on a regular basis. The retrospective champion may also be the facilitator, in which case they are responsible for reviewing the previous retrospective action items at the beginning of each meeting. A new champion can also be appointed at the end of each retrospective making it a rotational position.

We have developed a worksheet to help you with retrospectives. To access it, click here.

If you would like more information, or additional tips and tricks to run fun, creative or out of the box retrospectives, or if you would like to share your own experiences, leave us a comment below.


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