If you only have one recurring meeting, make it a retro

If you only have one recurring meeting, make it a retro

Recurring meetings have been going out of fashion for years now. You might not want to be the person that suggests a new one... but do you already have a retro in the diary?

Because if not, you probably should.

What is a retro?

A retrospective is a regular workshop you can run online or in person to look back over a period of work. This can be a fortnightly look at everything your team's been involved in, a monthly look at how the department is operating or a project review at specific milestones. 

What's so great about retros?

When organised well, retros are absolute goldmines of information. You can learn:

  • What you've been doing that works really well
  • What you've been doing that's a waste of time or resources
  • How people feel about their work and the overall project
  • What challenges are on the horizon
  • What the team has achieved, and which challenges they have overcome

Each of those insights can be translated into direct action. Something isn't working? Fix it or delete it. Challenge coming up? Prepare to address it. People achieved something? Celebrate it. 

This is so much more than a chat about the past. It helps ensure a better future.

Who should do retros?

Everyone can run a retro. You can run one on your own, focussing on your studies or career, for example. You could run a relationship retro with your partner.

Or, more traditionally, you can run one with your team. The good thing about retros is that they often follow a format that is quick to pick up, so you can pass the responsibility for running them around your team. 

Here's are a couple of insights from people who tested the tactics in our new Retros expansion pack:

"We realised that most of the things in our 'longed for' category are created by doing the things we as a team find least enjoyable. And those activities also created the most 'loved' moments whenever we did get round to doing them. This inspires us to make more of an effort with those things... while we hire someone else that loves that kind of work!"
- A team using Four Ls, which asks what you Liked, Loved, Learned and Longed for.

"This was surprisingly powerful. I used a situation where one of my big contracts finished and was not renewed. This way of thinking created a broad range of potential solutions to consider. A really useful thinking piece!".
- A contractor using What? So What? Now What?, which explores a specific (often negative) event with a view to creating a way forward.

Retros are also, often, fun. They can require you to draw a big rollercoaster or hot-air balloon on your whiteboard or virtual workspace, or to create 'awards' for each of your colleagues.
If you haven't tried a Retro yet but think they might be just what you need to help you learn from the past and turn your hopes and fears into actions, here are our top three tips for a successful retro:
  1. Ensure you have a degree of psychological safety in your team. Otherwise, people may be reluctant to share how they really feel.
  2. Define the period of time you want to talk about clearly. For example, run the session every fortnight and only discuss what has happened since the last one.
  3. Share the layout of your next retro in advance to give people time to consider what they want to talk about.

And of course, always make sure you set aside time after the session to write up and share the actions. In fact, the actions list is a fantastic way to start your next retro session. A list of what has been done, and what should have been done (but hasn't) can really kick off the conversation about how things have been going.

Good luck with your next retro! If you've just picked up the Retros deck and want a hint as to where to start, Four Ls is a favourite of ours here at Pip Decks.

If you don't have a copy yet - get one today! It contains 15 step-by-step Retro formats, plus four tactics from Workshop Tactics that are vitally important for good retros. Plus video tutorials with Charles Burdett, Author of Workshop Tactics, and Miro templates for each retro.

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