Great Leadership

The why and how of project retrospective meetings

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Emma Cullen2018-11-13
Great project managers always reflect on completed projects in order to conclude what went well, and what could be improved. A project retrospective meeting is a structured way of reflecting on projects and can be helpful in promoting continuous improvement. This article will explore why you should hold them, and how to do it!

What is a retrospective meeting?

A project retrospective meeting is a structured session, in the form of either a workshop or a meeting, which gives teams time to reflect on a completed project. The purpose of this type of session is for teams to learn from both the successes and the failures in order to improve and promote success in the future.

Weekly Retrospective Meeting

Weekly Retrospective Meeting

Why should you hold project retrospective meetings?

There are a number of reasons why holding a structured reflection in the form of a project retrospective meeting with the whole team can be useful:

You will create an environment of transparency and trust

A well-planned and executed retrospective meeting will provide a platform for the team to discuss both successes and areas for improvement. By being transparent and open about what happened during projects will create an environment of trust within your team.

You will boost team spirit

Retrospective meetings are good for team building as they give the opportunity to share praise and feedback. Through discussing success stories, giving feedback and looking for solutions for the problems together will give a boost to team spirit and energy level.

Pro tip: If you want to learn more about how to boost team spirit, read this blog post.

You will help your team to learn and develop

Team development is important to ensure that your team continuously over time. As a team leader, you should have a goal to improve your team with every project that they do. A retrospective meeting is a powerful tool for achieving this. Learn more about continuous improvement in this blog post.

How to hold a project retrospective meeting

There is no "official" or "right" way to hold a project retrospective meeting. The meeting, however, should be something that works for you and your team. This section will explore a fairly standard project retrospective that can be useful in most project situations and can be easily adapted and developed for different circumstances.

The project retrospective should be a reflection and discussion by all involved in the project - not just the project leader or manager. These questions can be used to do just that.

What was our goal?

This question is good to start with, as it recaps the purpose of the project and what you initially planned to do. This part of the retrospective does not need to be a discussion, but rather you can take the project plan and present the purposes of the project and give time for everyone in the session to reflect by themselves on whether these purposes were fulfilled.

What actually happened?

Now it’s time to discuss what actually happened. You can conduct this section in a number of different ways. You might have notes or a timeline to present, you might have data to present, you could also ask people to describe what happened during the project from their own perspective.

Why did it happen?

Next, discuss why what happened happened. Focus both on what went well and what didn’t go so well. In order to keep discussions constructive, it might be helpful to make sure that you create a safe space so that everyone feels able to share their opinions but at the same time make sure that the discussion doesn’t descend into a blame game, particularly if the project didn’t go to plan.

What are we going to do next time?

After you have reflected on what happened during the project, it is now time to use those reflections in order to plan for the future. It is important in these types of meetings and workshops to not only reflect on what happened. It is also important that you use the information gathered in the reflections to improve projects and ways of working in the future. This is why it is important to have a goal of continuous improvement in mind.

Template for a project retrospective meeting

Based on the project reflection questions we outlined and explored above we have created a template that you can use in your project retrospective meetings. It’s easy to edit and it’s made with Mentimeter meaning that your team can participate to submit their feedback.

Project Retrospective

Project Retrospective

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