This week I ran a short retrospective to close a two-year-long project; I had limited time and ten willing participants. This post covers the approach I used to create space for reflection.
The constraints were: we only had one hour, which in practice means 50mins at the most, so no time for a big timeline retro, and I had a day to devise and prep for it, so no time for pre-work from the participants.
The things I knew would make it easier were; everyone is very familiar with working with post-it notes, there are high levels of trust in the team, and they are very comfortable working over video and Miro.
The overall goal was to highlight learnings that the team could take forward to future work, either anecdotally or as new practices. The people in the room all played quite different roles and had a quite different focus and experience, so I wanted to give everyone a chance to share their perspective.
The time limit meant that there was not much time for discussion, so I focused it on reflection, inspired by Cara Bermingham’s break up format, and listening.
The retrospective format
Zoom, Miro board (with important timer), Pen and paper and Phone cameras to document
1. The set up:
I set the scene of why we were there, gave a version of the prime directive and asked people to get a pen and paper ready.
2. Check-in [5mins]
The first exercise was for people to add their name, role, and three goals of that role to the Miro board.
3. Write three pieces of advice to your past self starting on this project. [5mins]
Next, I asked people to imagine that they were talking to themselves in the past when they were about to join the team and give themself three pieces of advice. They wrote this down on their paper.
4. What three things you would do again [5mins]
Then, I asked them to write to three things they would do again, also on their paper.
Everything until this point was done in silence. The team knew each other well and were already comfortable with sharing.
5. Sharing and listening [2mins each]
This was the point that everyone got to share what they have written with each other. I gave everyone 2 mins to talk while everyone else listened, before thanking them and moving to the next person. I then asked them to take a photo and add it to the board for review later on.
We set two follow-up actions: invite people who could not make the session to add their thoughts and then collate and review all the advice to see what to take forward.
7. Appreciations [5mins]
Finally, we ended with some time to write thank-you notes directly on the Miro board to give the team the chance to share their appreciation. They said lovely things about each other.
The session, although short, was really productive. Giving everyone a chance to reflect and to be heard meant there was an even contribution and gave everyone a chance to listen to each other, which people appreciated. Limiting the pieces of advice forced people to prioritise. Using pen and paper allows everyone to reflect without watching what other people are writing. Ending on a positive, with both the things you would do again and then thank yous left people feeling upbeat, and the Miro board acts as a valuable artefact to go back to review. This is definitely a format I would use again.