How to run a team retrospective, listen and adapt

How to run a team retrospective, listen and adapt

Posted: Fri 31st Oct 2014

When delivering a project, at some point you might hear the words 'oh dear, that happened last time'. Big challenges for business owners are allowing ideas to flourish, avoiding repeat mistakes, building on successful behaviours and developing processes.

If you're trying to make something happen, whether it's launch a product, open a pop-up or rebrand your business, goalposts can move, the team dynamics may change, errors can occur.

In projects, as is in life, change is inevitable and sometimes, people make mistakes. What's important to do is learn from our experiences and use insights to adapt and improve.

As busy business people and entrepreneurs, we're often too tied up with the next big thing to reflect on what went well and should be continued, and what didn't go so well and could be avoided.

One way to do this easily is to run a retrospective. This is a collaborative, informal and interactive session. The session will help your team feel valued and allow them to share their thoughts calmly and constructively.

What you'll take away from a retrospective

  • A team that feels united

  • A list of things to avoid in your next project

  • A set of actions to implement peoples ideas

  • The start of your own best practice guide

How to run a retrospective

What you need

  • Bright post its and marker pens

  • An hour for the session, and some follow up time after

  • A space with a big wall or white board: you're going to cover it in post its

  • Water and fruit: to keep people going if the session is longer than planned

Who to invite

  • Always include senior and junior stakeholders

  • If possible enlist someone to facilitate the session (This isn't essential)

When to do it

  • Book in a time and place that's convenient for everyone

  • Try to arrange the session shortly after launching, or if possible, run them regularly throughout your project

  • You want your team to be energized and not distracted, so after morning tea and coffee is usually a good time

How to do it

  • Set up the room with post its and pens on the table, and 3 spaced out headers on the wall, one happy face J, one sad L and one light bulb.

  • Introduce the session, and explain why you're doing it

  • Once the team has settled in hand them each a stack of post its and a pen - watch for the excitement"¦

  • Give the team 4 minutes to write down at least 3 Things they think went well (Let them know they don't have to limit themselves to 3, the more the better!)

  • One note per post it please and a smiley face in the corner of each happy thought

  • When the 4 minutes is up, ask the team to pick up a stack of different colour post its, and write down 3 things that didn't go so well - remind them now, of the retrospective prime directive (see below)

  • Again, give 4 minutes to write down the things that didn't go so well and ask for a sad face in the corner of the post it

  • If people are still writing after that 4 mins, give them a little longer, but don't let the exercise drag

The next part is where it gets really interesting

  • Ask for a volunteer to be the first to read their thoughts, and stick the post its on the wall under the L or L

  • Have the team do this one by one, and you'll start to see similar thoughts coming out, and some surprises

  • Once everyone has spoken, ask for 2 volunteers to sort the post its into themes

  • Make sure the team agree the themes and understand them

  • Ask the team to come up with actions for each theme

  • Under the positives - how to make sure the behaviour or process grows and continues.

  • With the negatives, come up with actions to avoid these in the future

And finally...

  • The last exercise, is to ask everyone to take 3 minutes and come with at least one idea for the next phase of your project or business

  • Again, have them read their ideas out loud and discuss as a group, which you can take forward and how you can make them happen as a team

Enterprise Nation has helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder, Emma Jones CBE, Enterprise Nation connects you to the resources and expertise to help you succeed.

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